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Varicose Veins – More Than Just A Cosmetic Blemish
Varicose veins are large, swollen veins, often blue or purple in colour, which mainly occur in the feet and legs. They happen when the tiny valves in the veins carrying blood back to the heart – which has been carried by arteries to the tissues – do not work properly. Blood then runs back and forms pools which lead to swollen, unsightly veins.
The veins are not life-threatening, and most of the time, do not need any treatment for health reasons. However, should undue swelling and pain occur in the legs, effective treatment is available.
How do varicose veins develop?
The veins are responsible for carrying blood back to the heart, which has been carried from the heart by arteries to the tissues. The veins furthest from the heart, such as those in the legs, are usually the worst affected when the valves, which only allow blood to flow in one direction, no longer work efficiently. The veins are put under further pressure because the flow from the legs to the heart is actually against the force of gravity.
This happens when the walls of the veins stretch and begin to lose elasticity, and allow blood to leak backward. This blood accumulates in the veins which then become swollen, enlarged and inflamed.
Research results have indicated that any pressure on the abdomen such as pregnancy, constipation, and obesity are also potential causes of varicose veins.
Symptoms of varicose veins
As a rule, varicose veins seldom cause pain, but some symptoms which are common to many folk, may include some of the following:
- An aching, heavy feeling in the lower legs.
- Swollen ankles, especially at night or after exercise.
- An injury to the affected area may result in more bleeding than normal.
- Some people may experience burning, throbbing, or muscle cramping in the legs.
- Pain may develop after sitting or standing for a long time.
- Spider-web type veins may appear on the surface of the skin, which look similar to varicose veins, but are thread-like in size. They are completely harmless, except for possible cosmetic concerns.
Fortunately, varicose veins present few complications, but if they do occur may include bleeding and thrombo-phlebitis which are blood clots causing inflammation in the veins. This would have to be medically dealt with, as a clot could cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is a potentially dangerous condition.
A further complication can be a venal ulcer which can develop on the skin close to varicose veins which will also need urgent medical attention.
Risk factors for varicose veins
- Due to wear and tear in the tiny valves that regulate blood flow, the risk increases with age.
- Varicose veins often run in families. If a close family member suffered with varicose veins, your risk will be higher of doing the same.
- Your gender also plays a role. Women are more prone to developing the condition, probably because of pregnancy or hormonal factors which increases the volume of blood in your body, but reduces the efficiency of the veins to send blood back to the heart.
- Obesity is a major risk because the extra weight in the legs adds pressure to the veins, resulting in enlarged, swollen veins.
Although there has been a lot of research, experts are still not exactly sure why the walls of the veins stretch and the valves become faulty, even sometimes when there are no risk factors present.
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Some preventative measures
There is no sure way to completely prevent varicose veins, but you can take action to reduce your risk.
- Watch your weight. The more you weigh, the more pressure there is on your veins.
- Eat a high-fiber diet to keep the colon clean and prevent constipation which can bloat the abdomen and hinder blood flow.
- Wear shoes that can support your calf muscles. Very high stilettos offer no support and you may pay the price later with unsightly veins in your legs.
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed and try not to stand still for long periods – keep moving around.
- Get plenty of exercise even if it is only walking. Exercise will improve your circulation and strengthen the muscle tone in the legs.
- Try not to wear clothes or underwear which is very tight and constricts the pelvic and groin areas. The blood will battle to reach the heart, and may pool backwards and enlarge the veins.
Home and natural remedies which can help with treatment
Medical and surgical treatments for varicose veins can be very expensive. Some natural health protocols and home remedies for varicose veins have been shown to reduce the severity and uncomfortable symptoms.
- Apple cider vinegar is a natural body cleanser which also improves blood flow and circulation. Add 2 teaspoons of the vinegar to a glass of water and drink twice per day. You can apply undiluted ACV to swollen veins and massage gently to reduce inflammation.
- An equal mix of olive and vitamin E oil massaged into the veins twice daily is another great topical remedy to ease painful varicose veins.
- Drink plenty of water every day to help soften the stools and prevent constipation which puts more strain on the veins. Drinking lots water is also an easy way to lose weight as it flushes undigested food from the colon.
Strengthen your veins with diet and natural supplements
Varicose veins can be a miserable condition, but they are preventable and treatable with a healthy diet, as well as supplements to bolster your diet should it fall short of nutritional needs.
The best foods to support veins include:
- Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and leafy green veggies for B vitamins. B-complex supplement will also help.
- Vitamin C supports good blood circulation and plays a major role in strengthening the walls of the veins. Vitamin C is available in all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Vitamin E, available in foods such as almonds, spinach, avocado, sweet potato, seeds, butternut and fatty fish, helps to keep platelets from sticking to vein walls, and prevents blockages and cramps in lower legs. A natural E supplement is also an excellent way to improve circulation.
Watching your weight, following a healthy diet, improving lifestyle habits like giving up smoking and getting regular exercise will go a long way to help prevent bulging varicose veins from developing. If veins are already in existence, a good lifestyle will provide relief and stop further worsening of the condition.