Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged veins – usually dark purple or blue, which usually appear on the legs. They can also be lumpy, twisted or bulging in appearance. Some people with varicose veins might experience discomfort and pain.
Varicose veins are a common ailment, affecting up to 3 in 10 people. Females are more likely to develop them than males.
Any vein in your body could become varicose, but they most commonly develop in the feet and legs, predominantly in the calves.
Along with their characteristic appearance, varicose veins symptoms can include:
- swollen ankles and feet
- sore, heavy and bumpy legs
- throbbing or burning in your legs
- muscle cramp in the legs, especially at night
- thin, dry, and itchy skin over the affected vein
These symptoms are often worse if you’ve been standing up for long periods of time or during warm weather. They might improve when if you rest, raise your legs, or if you walk around. You can use some pillows to raise your legs comfortably.
This ailment usually develops on the legs, either on the inside of your leg or on the back of your calf. Though, they can also sometimes appear in some other parts of your body, like your:
- womb (uterus)
- rectum (back passage)
- gullet (esophagus)
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are usually caused by valves and weak vein walls.
Inside the veins are small one-way valves which open to let the blood through and next, close to prevent it flowing rearward.
Occasionally the walls of the veins become strained and lose their elasticity, triggering the valves to weaken.
In case the valves do not function properly, this may cause the blood to leak and then flow rearward. If this takes place, the blood will collect in the veins that will become enlarged and swollen. But, what cause the walls of the veins to stretch and the valves in the veins to weaken – is still not fully understood. Many people develop the condition for no apparent or obvious reason.
Numerous things could increase your chance of developing varicose veins, including:
- being pregnant
- being overweight
- other conditions
As we get older, our veins begin to lose their elasticity and the valves stop working as well.
The risk of developing varicose vein is more increased if a close family member has this ailment.
Women are more likely to experience varicose veins than men. Studies have shown that this may be due female hormones, which tend to relax the veins ‘walls, making the valves more inclined to leaking. However, hormones are chemicals that the body produce, so the changes can be caused by menopause, premenstrual syndrome, or pregnancy.
Many scientists suggest jobs that require long periods of standing can increase the risk of getting varicose veins. This is happening because blood doesn’t flow as effortlessly when you are standing for long periods of time.
The amounts of blood increase to help support the developing newborn during the pregnancy and that puts extra strain on the woman’s veins.
Furthermore, increased hormone levels during pregnancy can cause the muscular walls of the blood vessels to relax that also increases the risk.
The varicose vein can also develop as the womb (uterus) starts to grow. When the womb enlarges it puts pressure on veins in the pelvic area that could sometimes initiate them to become varicose.
Even though being pregnant may increase the risk of developing varicose veins, many women find their veins expressively improved after their baby is born.
Being overheavy puts extra pressure on the veins, which means they ought to work harder in order to send the blood back to the heart. This may put amplified pressure on the valves, making them more inclined to leaking.
The influence of body weight on the development of varicose vein appears to be more significant in females.
In very rare cases, this condition is caused by some other conditions, such as:
- a tumor or swelling in the pelvis
- a previous blood clot
- abnormal blood vessels
Types of Varicose Veins
Here are the most common types of varicose veins:
- trunk varicose veins– these are knobby and thick and are near to the surface of the skin; they are often quite long, usually visible, and can look pretty unpleasant
- telangiectasia varicose veins– also called spider veins or thread veins, these are tiny clusters of red or blue veins that sometimes appear on the legs or face; they are very harmless and, unlike trunk varicose veins, don’t bulge underneath the surface of your skin.
- reticular varicose veins– these are grouped close together in a network and have a red color
Diagnosing Varicose Veins
In case you experience varicose veins – but you don’t feel any pain or discomfort, you may not need to visit your doctor. This condition is not usually serious and do not require any particular treatment, except in some very rare cases.
However, visit your GP if:
- your varicose veins are causing you discomfort or pain
- the skin over your veins is irritated and sore
- the aching in the legs is causing irritation at night, so you cannot sleep well.
Varicose veins are diagnosed by their look. Your doctor will examine your legs in a standing position to check for some signs of swelling.
You might also be asked to describe the discomfort or pain you have and whether there are certain situations that make your varicose veins worse. For instance, some women find their periods affect their varicose veins.
Complications of Varicose Veins
In very rare cases varicose veins can cause certain complications because they stop the blood flowing properly.
Following, I explain some possible complications of this condition:
Varicose vein near the surface of the skin could sometimes bleed if you bump or cut your leg. The bleeding can be difficult to stop.
Therefore, you should lie down and raise your leg, then apply direct pressure to your wound. You must seek immediate medical help if this does not stop the bleeding.
- Blood clots
In case blood clots form in the veins located underneath the surface of the skin (superficial veins), it can lead to conditions as deep vein thrombosis or thrombophlebitis.
Thrombophlebitis is inflammation (swelling) of the veins in the leg caused by blood clots that form in your vein. This could appear within your varicose veins and may:
- look red
- be painful
- feel warm
When thrombophlebitis happens in one of your superficial veins in the leg it is known as superficial thrombophlebitis.
Thrombophlebitis (just like a varicose vein) can be treated with compression stockings.
- Deep vein thrombosis
This condition can develop in more than 20 % of people who have a blood clot in their veins. Find more about deep vein thrombosis natural remedies: LINK
- Chronic venous insufficiency
If the blood in the veins does not flow properly, it may impede with the way your skin exchanges nutrients, oxygen, and waste products with the blood.
If this exchange is disrupted over a long period of time, it is known as chronic venous insufficiency.
This health problem can sometimes cause some other conditions to develop, including:
- varicose eczema (a condition that causes the skin to become scaly, flaky and red permanently);
- lipodermatosclerosis (a condition that affects the calf area, and causes your skin to become tight and hardened, with brown or red color), and
- venous ulcers (a condition that develops when there is increased pressure in the vein of the lower leg, and causes liquid to seep from the vein and collect under your skin – and may form an ulcer, usually in the ankle area)
Treating Varicose Veins
How to get rid of varicose veins?
As we mentioned before, for most people this condition doesn’t present a serious health issue. Varicose veins may have an unpleasant look, but shouldn’t affect circulation or cause some long-term health problems, so most of them don’t need any treatment.
If treatment is required, your GP may first vouch for 6 months of taking regular exercise, elevating the affected area while resting, and using compression stockings.
If your veins are still causing you discomfort or pain– or they cause any complications – they may be treated in certain ways, as:
- endothermal ablation– treatment with heat to seal affected veins
- sclerotherapy – treatment with special foam to close the veins
- stripping and ligation – this treatment involves surgery to eradicate the affected veins
Varicose veins are usually a symptom of an underlying venous insufficiency disorder. If you visit your doctor or dermatologist to talk about medical treatment options, you will likely be recommended to make some certain lifestyle changes first, and then to have a surgery (if needed). All of this can greatly aid decrease blood pooling in the veins, while also offering many other bonuses, like clearer skin, more energy, improved digestion, and better heart health.
Natural Varicose Veins Treatment
There are some great natural remedies for varicose veins that can help you get rid of them. Plus, natural treatment for varicose veins is far less expensive than the surgeries.
Here are 5 effective natural varicose vein treatments:
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight
As we stated before, individuals who are overweight are more likely to develop this condition, especially elderly people and overweight women. Carrying excess body weight puts a higher amount of pressure on the veins and could contribute to reflux and inflammation, particularly in the largest superficial veins, like the saphenous vein in the leg.
For overweight people varicose veins are usually more hard to assess and treat because they generally go unnoticed till they progress to be larger in size (about 4 -5 centimeters long, deep inside the leg) and more inflamed, according to an article published by the Huffington Post about the connection between varicose veins and obesity.
- An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
There are certain foods that can improve blood flow and help reverse inflammation – and thus, make it possible to heal varicose veins faster and even prevent future vein problems. A poor diet — high in trans fats, caffeine, sugar, processed foods, and alcohol — can contribute to low circulation, arterial damage, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, and blood pressure problems. Many of these foods are also high in sodium that contains toxins, and are dehydrating, and can worsen swelling in the varicose vein.
Here are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods that can help you reduce the appearance of varicose veins:
- Natural diuretics
Doctors sometimes use certain diuretic pills to reduce swelling or retention and help increase urination. You can get the exact same effect by consuming things as dandelion greens, fennel, fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley), cucumber, celery, and asparagus.
- High-antioxidant foods
Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, rich in vitamin E and vitamin C (both present in citrus fruits and green veggies), help fights inflammation, improve arterial health, and strengthen veins. Vitamin E acts as a natural blood thinner and is well-known to help prevent blood clots. This vitamin can improve heart health and skin health.
- Wild-caught fish
Seafood and fish like mackerel, wild salmon, sardines, tuna, and anchovies provide omega-3 fatty acids that are significant for proper blood flow.
- Magnesium-rich foods
Leg cramps, blood pressure problems, and blood pooling are warning signs of deficiencies in electrolytes like magnesium and potassium. To overcome these symptoms, you should increase intake of things like avocado, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, sweet potatoes, and bananas.
- Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an effective anti-inflammatory and can improve circulation in the vein walls. Try using apple cider vinegar with hazel on your varicose vein – it will help you lower the swelling and improve the appearance within a few weeks.
- Spicy foods
Curry and cayenne pepper can help to get the blood flowing and heat up the body, adding to healthy circulation, and even weight/appetite control.
- High-fiber foods
Fiber can improve heart health and is also essential for healthy digestive functions. Consuming 30–40 grams of fiber each day is an ideal way to prevent constipation that can cause bloating and increase vein pressure around the legs and abdomen. High-fiber foods to eat include flaxseeds and chia seeds, (which are also omega-3 foods, that are anti-inflammatory), fresh fruit, vegetables, and ancient grains, and sprouted/soaked legumes.
A regular exercise is one of the greatest things you can do in order to lower inflammation and improve blood flow, which you can add to the list of exercise benefits. Sitting (particularly with poor posture – like your legs crossed – or forward head posture) or standing for long periods of time without moving around much is related to an increased risk of varicose vein and some other forms of blood pooling, according to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute.
Exercise is the best way to help lose weight, balance hormones naturally, or lower blood pressure, and maintain a normal body weight, which can all contribute to this condition.
The Carolina Vascular Institute suggests preventing varicose vein by performing calf raises, leg lifts, side lunges, and bicycle legs to stretch and strengthen the veins around your legs. Some low-impact exercises, such as swimming, bicycling, and walking, are also perfect for people who suffer from varicose vein since they alleviate pressure.
In you can experience some discomfort or pain when starting to exercise, you should take it really slowly and try heating or icing sore muscles after a workout. Moreover, you could also elevate your legs to help reduce pain and swelling, or try compression stockings.
4. Natural Herbs Including Horse Chestnut and Bilberry
According to Dr. Axe, horse chestnut and bilberry (two plants used for thousands of years as a natural remedy), are both safe and effective for treating varicose veins. These herbs can help you reduce chronic venous insufficiency, which causes ankle swelling, pain, itching, nighttime leg cramping, and feelings of heaviness. They’re also effective for circulatory problems, PMS cramps, lowering water retention, diarrhea, swelling, and other conditions.
The bilberry fruit can be eaten or made into tea or extracts. The horse chestnut tree, also known as a buckeye, produces leaves, seeds, flowers, and bark that can be found in lotion/cream, extract, capsule, or tea form. You should look for horse chestnut seed extract that contains 16-20 % aescin (escin). You should take 100 milligrams of horse chestnut once a day. Dr. Axe recommends taking bilberry in doses of around 160 milligrams, two times a day.
Additionally, you can combine these with grape seed extract (200 milligrams per day), vitamin E (400 IU daily), and butcher’s broom (200 milligrams per day) to help increase blood flow and complete natural blood-thinning effects safely. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, you should also take rutin, a potent bioflavonoid, which can protect the walls of veins and support their work. Bioflavonoids help release swelling, pain, and aching from the varicose vein and can be found in pine bark, grape seed, hawthorn, blueberry, cranberry and other plants that contain powerful antioxidants as vitamin C.
5. Essential Oils for Balancing Hormones
Various essential oils can be truly beneficial for increasing blood flow while also lowering hormonal imbalances and inflammation.
Cypress oil is one of the best for specifically treating varicose vein issues, which has the ability to improve circulation and support the work of the circulatory system.
Simply try rubbing 5 drops of cypress essential oil on the affected area 2 times per day for several weeks. In case you experience swelling, skin blisters, or muscle aches, try using some other diluted essential oils like tea tree, lavender, or peppermint oil in small amounts in order to soothe the problematic place.
How to Prevent Varicose Veins
There is little evidence to submit you can completely prevent developing varicose veins or stop them getting worse.
Though, there are a few tips that can help you to ease the symptoms of already existing varicose veins:
- Avoid sitting or standing still for long periods. Try to move around every 30 minutes,
- Take regular breaks throughout the day, raise the legs on pillow while resting to reduce discomfort, and
- Try to exercise regularly – it can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve circulation
Any vein can become varicose, however, the veins most commonly affected are those in the feet and legs. That is because walking upright and standing increases the pressure in the veins of the lower body.
For many people, spider veins and varicose veins – are just a cosmetic concern. But, for other people, varicose veins may cause discomfort and ache pain. Sometimes varicose veins can lead to certain complications.
Varicose veins could also signal a higher risk of additional circulatory problems. Treatment may involve procedure by your GP to remove or close veins, or self-care measures.
Spider veins (just like varicose veins) usually show up on the backs of the thighs, legs, feet, ankles, calves, and backs of the thighs. They are typically smaller than varicose veins and they are not painful. Spider veins are likely to cause any symptoms as they are positioned on the surface skin layers.
If you are worried about the look of your veins, you should visit your doctor.
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