By Jill Buterbaugh, RN, MSN, CRNP, FNP-BC
While it is true that more women than men get varicose veins, the disease is not gender specific. Multiple studies in the past have revealed that both genders get varicose veins but with varying results. An absolute estimate is impossible based on the wide range of results, but about 15 to 20 percent of men and 30 to 40 percent of women get varicose veins.
So why do men get less attention? All the advertising for vein treatments are generally aimed at the female population. If we face reality, the appearance of varicose veins has more of a psychological impact on women than men. Women are more concerned with the appearance of their legs. In our practice, women often reveal that they quit wearing shorts or short skirts and instead rely on capris, pants or long skirts. Women’s hygienic practice of shaving their legs make the visibility of veins more evident. Women also tend to use tanning products or natural tans to try to disguise the unsightly veins. On the other hand, men don’t see varicose veins as an unattractive feature on them. Some, like weight lifters, perceive visible veins as a sign of strength.
Women tend to show up for evaluations far more early in the disease process than men do. Men are more likely to present with symptoms associated with more long term disease because they tend to wait until it is very bothersome and in some times, life altering. Men also tend to have more disease in the deep venous system while females tend to have more disease in the superficial system and that is basically genetics. The rate of deep vein thrombosis, which can be a result of untreated venous disease, is twice as high in men as in women. While the rate of superficial thrombosis is more common in females.
The problem with the discrepancy between deep and superficial disease is that the deep disease tends to be invisible on the surface of the skin. Symptoms more related to deep system disease are swelling, heaviness, fatigue and microscopic inflammation which can eventually lead to skin changes. Superficial system disease is revealed by the development of visible varicose veins on the surface in addition to the swelling and microscopic inflammation but often takes longer for skin changes to occur.
The first line of treatment for deep and superficial disease is compression stockings. The studies indicate that 20 to 30 mmHg compression is the most effective strength of stockings to force the blood from the superficial varicose veins into the deep system and improve circulation of the blood back to the heart. While research has not proven that wearing anything higher than a knee high is more beneficial, some people with more thigh disease find that thigh high stockings or full pantyhose type stockings give them more relief. Compression stockings don’t correct the disease, but make the symptoms more manageable, prevent further progression and development of other problems.
Although men tend to wear long pants more than women, it has not been found that they are any more willing to wear their compression. Trying to tell a man he needs to wear thigh high or panty hose compression does not go over well even if they aren’t visible under their pants. But men are more likely to wear their compression with shorts if their symptoms are significantly relieved by wearing them.
The other barrier to men seeking care is embarrassment. Some men feel having their veins treated makes them appear vain about appearance. There are many medical reasons for treating veins. Symptoms such as swelling, heaviness, aching, fatigue and skin rashes are an early sign of vein disease and if treated in the earlier stages may prevent skin hardening and discoloration as well as skin ulcers.
Varicose veins occur in both men and women. The importance of treatment is equally important and it is a medical condition that should be treated as early in the disease as possible to prevent serious complications. If you feel you have vein disease and would like more information, feel free to contact us today! Don’t wait until the disease causes irreparable damage!