More Than Skin Deep: The Psychological Impact of Varicose Veins
The Body & The Mind
When most people think about varicose veins, they focus on the physical aspects of this disease. And there’s no doubt that the associated discomfort, swelling, tiredness in the legs, and overall unsightliness of the condition warrant attention. But there’s more to it. If you talk to anyone who’s had them, they’ll also tell you about how hard it can be to cope with on a psychological level; working is tougher with leg discomfort, depression is common, and there’s always the embarrassment caused by the way they look.
What do we really know about the connection between mental health and varicose veins? It’s been increasingly noted in research that varicose veins—because of their impact on physical health—also has a significant effect on psychology. Essentially, what arises is a kind of feedback loop: varicose veins lead people to feel more insecure about their self-image and self-worth and suffer a kind of mental fallout as a result.
But what does this impact look like? Among many others, two studies have highlighted the connections.
In order to more fully explore the impact of varicose veins on mental health, Dr. Rajiv Mallick and his team looked at data from two studies and a total of 516 patients, classifying results using accepted measures of psychological health and quality-of-life. Using statistical analysis they noted significant relationships between these and the presence of these veins. Here’s a quick breakdown of their main results:
- Prevalence of Obesity: Because of its impact of circulation and vein health, the team analyzed the weight status of the research pool. They found that 70 percent of patients were obese (that is a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above). How does this impact psychology? It’s well known that obese individuals are more prone to depression and other psychological conditions.
- Difficulty at Work: A large portion of the subjects—approximately 47 percent—reported difficulty at work as result of varicose veins. On top of that, 31 percent of participants noted that this impacted the amount of hours they felt they could do it. The effect was especially pronounced for those who work on their feet. In effect, this leads to a reduced self-image.
- Concern About Appearance: The most prominent impact of varicose veins on sufferers’ mental status was seen in measurements of concern about appearance and clothing choice. In this study, 74 percent noted the former, and 65 percent felt hampered by the latter.
- Severity & Psychology: With all of their measures, this team found that the more advanced and severe the case of varicose veins, the greater psychology was impacted. As they put it, “[s]ymptoms and functional limitations”—that is the extent to which the condition impacted ability to stand, work, etc.—“led to greater psychological impact.”
This team noted that varicose veins have a tough and debilitating impact on mental health and emphasize the need for further research on these connections.
Depression & Varicose Veins
A second study performed in 2012 noted a distinct and salient relationship between varicose veins and depression scores. Dr. Sritharan and a team at the Imperial College of Medicine in London, UK, assessed 100 varicose veins patients and found a significant amount—29 percent—had scores suggestive of clinical depression. This association was independent of other factors like age and gender, and, according to the authors, it’s largely under-diagnosed. This being the case, they advocated a more “holistic approach” to treating these cases.
Treatments for varicose veins like radiofrequency ablation (RFA), foam sclerotherapy, and others, then, can also help promote better mental health. You simply feel better and more sure of yourself when you feel healthier in your own body. These days, there’s no need to feel like a burden or hide your legs. If varicose veins are an issue for you, it’s seriously worth considering taking them on.
If you suffer with varicose veins, the experts at Hamilton Vein Center’s Texas-based outpatient clinics are ready to help. They employ the latest and most effective methods of treatment. Learn more about what they do by calling their Houston location at (281) 565-0033, the Austin office at (512) 551-1403, or San Antonio at (210) 504-4304 today!
- Mallick R, et al. 2018. “Relationship Between Patient-Reported Symptoms, Limitations In Daily Activities, And Psychological Impact In Varicose Veins. – Pubmed – NCBI “. Nlm.Nih.Gov. Accessed April 20 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/282144
- Nemiary, Deina, Ruth Shim, Gail Mattox, and Kisha Holden. 2012. “The Relationship Between Obesity And Depression Among Adolescents”. Psychiatric Annals 42 (8): 305-308. SLACK, Inc. doi:10.3928/00485713-20120806-09.
- Sritharan, K., T.R.A. Lane, and A.H. Davies. 2012. “The Burden Of Depression In Patients With Symptomatic Varicose Veins”. European Journal Of Vascular And Endovascular Surgery43 (4): 480-484. Elsevier BV. doi:10.1016/j.ejvs.2012.01.008.