by Dr. Jen Webster, MD
ask dr. jen
Dr. Jennifer Webster, MD is a family practitioner in Belleville, ON and a professor in the Queen’s Family Medicine program. Dr. Webster lives a healthy, active lifestyle together with her husband Robert and her two children.
Dear Dr. Jen - I’ve suddenly got nasty spider veins on my legs - will these turn into painful varicose veins in the future? Is there anything I do to stop this? Spider veins are tiny webs of veins that may or may not be painful, typically on the thighs, calves, and ankles. They may appear at any point in your life, and don’t necessarily mean an increased risk of developing larger, more painful varicose veins. Often spider veins are more of a cosmetic concern, as they tend to occur on areas of your legs that are often exposed. They can be treated with laser therapy if they are truly bothersome. Varicose veins are the bumpy, noticeable veins that often can be painful. Veins have tiny valves in them to help pump blood back to the heart, and varicose veins are a result of a leaky valve. These are often hereditary, or may develop after prolonged standing, weight gain, or many other reasons. These veins can, over time, leak fluid into your calves and cause problems with swelling. There are many ways to treat varicose veins now, including injections, laser therapy, and surgery. An easier way to manage spider veins and varicose veins would be to get regular physical activity such as walking, running, biking,
swimming, or dancing, which will all move the muscles in your calves to help your veins work properly. For those who are bothered by painful veins, or have to stand for hours as part of a job, compression stockings may be of benefit. Most large drugstores now sell compression stockings (knee-high, thighhigh, and full-on pantyhose!). Aim to start at the lowest amount of compression (1520mmHg) and wear them during the day. They won’t make spider veins or varicose veins disappear, but your legs will feel better.
I have been applying sunscreen to my kids forever...and I’m not sure which is worse - the Sun exposure or the chemicals in the sun screen? Good job with persisting - getting sunscreen on kids is no easy task! Most sunscreens meant for children are made with your concerns in mind. Children’s sunblocks often rely on zinc oxide as a main ingredient (think: the white paste that lifeguards in the movies have on their noses), which is also a common ingredient in diaper cream! It forms a barrier to the sun’s rays on your child’s skin, and often is sweated off or can be washed off at the end of the day. Any child older than six months should wear a sunscreen with a least 30 SPF whenever out in the sun. Most good sunscreens for kids should have protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The bottle should be labelled, but if in doubt, choose one that has the Canadian Dermatology Association logo
on it. Another options to practice safe-sun with kids is to avoid sun exposure between the hours of 11am-4pm, wear a broad-brimmed sunhat, protective clothing, and sunglasses (which also protect little eyes from damaging UVA/UVB rays). There are also many SPFrated clothes for kids, including swimsuits with sleeves and legs. But no matter what sunscreen you choose for your child, remember to re-apply it: every 2-3 hours, and after swimming!
I know we need the Sun for vitamin D, but how much sun exposure is acceptable? It actually takes very little - just 20 minutes! However, you need to have your arms and most of your legs exposed (as if you were wearing a T-shirt and shorts), and no sunscreen on. Since sunny, short-wearing days simply aren’t that frequent here in Canada, the current thinking is to recommend a Vitamin D supplement for most people, 400IU daily. Most Canadians simply don’t have the opportunity to expose that much skin for that long EVERY day (it has to rain sometime!). It is also important to note that tanning beds are not a safe source of Vitamin D, and I would actually recommend against them. *Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please see your own practitioner to obtain advice specific to you.