Millions of people throughout the UK are looking toward natural treatments for a number of health conditions, and varicose veins are among them. Though varicose veins may not be a health problem most of us would recognise as treatable by natural means, some natural treatments have been reported to reduce symptoms in early stages of vascular disease. Varicose veins are unattractive, but more importantly, they can cause significant discomfort and various levels of pain and other symptoms such as itching, burning, and difficulty moving, particularly when they develop in the feet, ankles, and legs.
If you are suffering with any of the symptoms of varicose veins, or you have been diagnosed with them, treatment may be necessary. A varicose vein treatment clinic can pinpoint the type of varicose veins you have and recommend corrective treatment.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged, reddish or purplish veins that become gnarled and twisted just beneath the skin and often bulge up over the skin. They can develop any place on the body that contains veins, with most of these unsightly veins appearing on the legs, feet, and ankles. Some patients even experience bulging veins on the face, hands, or vaginal regions. These types of vein conditions typically are called ‘spider veins,’ which are less serious. However, these areas also can develop the more serious condition of varicose veins.
The reason varicose veins typically occur on legs and feet is because of gravity. Depending upon the activity, the legs and feet hold all or most of our weight, and so they experience a tremendous amount of stress every day. In fact, even when we sit our legs, feet, and ankles still hold a good deal of our weight. Because of this, sedentary lifestyles are especially prone to developing varicose veins. Many complications can develop due to varicose veins, including pain, difficulty moving and walking, and unattractive appearance. Though it is true that some people who suffer from varicose veins find them to be of little more than nuisance, others can suffer a great deal with the swelling, pain, and mobility difficulties that accompany varicose veins. These unhealthy veins can even lead to serious complications including fatalities due to such health conditions as DVT, or deep venous thrombosis.
What are the risk factors?
Just as with other health conditions, you are at greater risk of developing varicose veins if they run in your family. The best thing to do if you have one or more blood ancestors such as mother or father who suffered from varicose veins is to prevent them before they begin. Maintaining a healthy weight is the first and perhaps most important step in preventing bulging veins. Obesity can be a major factor in developing varicose veins because it puts extra stress on extremities. Therefore, it is important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that provides the proper nutrients your blood needs. One of the first steps to eating healthy is lessening the amount of sweets you eat in favour of more healthful options. Additionally, be sure to exercise on a regular basis in order to get blood flowing properly to every organ in your body.
Women tend to suffer from varicose veins more often than men due to hormonal imbalances. As a woman advances from her 20s and 30s into her 40s and beyond, her hormones change. Many healthcare professionals believe there is a correlation between progesterone levels and varicose veins. Whatever the underlying cause, studies have shown that women are at higher risk for developing varicose veins, particularly during and following pregnancy.
Although age may not be the determining factor, ageing can bring with it development of these varicose veins for the same reasons it can lead to other medical conditions—simple wear and tear. Though it is never a foregone conclusion that you will develop these unsightly and often painful veins as you age, older people are more likely to suffer from them simply due to gravitational pull as we age. For this reason, it is especially important to maintain a healthy weight, eat a proper diet, and get enough exercise as we age in order to promote healthy circulation.
Occupations that keep you on your feet all or most of the day can be a significant factor in developing varicose veins of the legs and feet. However, if your occupation has you sitting all or most of the day, you also are at greater risk for developing varicose veins. The reason for this is that your blood is not permitted to circulate properly throughout the day. Millions more of us than ever spend a good deal of our work days sitting at a desk in front of a computer. If your occupation has you sitting or standing most of the day, be sure to take the necessary precautions to keep blood flowing properly. Walk around a bit every hour. Shake out your extremities periodically in order to get blood circulating. Do not sit in the same position all the time; instead switch it up throughout the day.
Obesity can be a major factor of varicose veins. Be sure to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly in order to maintain proper weight.
Wearing tight clothing can restrict proper blood circulation. Don’t wear tight clothing, especially if your occupation has you sitting most of the day. High heels also can lead to the development of varicose veins.
What are the symptoms?
Varicose veins can cause problems no matter where in the body they occur. However, when they develop in the legs, they typically cause more problems because they can limit mobility, which in turn will limit your lifestyle choices. Watch out for the following symptoms, as they can be indicators of varicose veins.
- Heaviness in the legs that can lead to ambulation difficulties
- Fatigue in the legs
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Itching and burning sensations
- Swelling in legs, ankles, and feet
- Skin discolourations
- Thin, dry, or scaly skin
- Open sores
What are natural treatments for varicose veins?
Because varicose veins develop due to blood circulation problems, natural treatments are about getting blood circulating properly. This can be achieved in some patients without medications or surgeries. These can include:
Prevent circulation problems
Prevention is always the first natural treatment.
- Exercise regularly to get blood flowing properly
- Eat a healthy diet that includes all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to maintain optimum circulation
- Start a smoking cessation program that will stop tobacco products from robbing your body of vital nutrients
- Stop wearing tight clothing that restricts blood flow
- Limit high heels to special occasions, as these make it difficult for blood to get to and from your feet and ankles
- Switch up your sedentary lifestyle by adding more activity that will keep your circulatory system happy
Eat a healthy diet
Every system in the body depends on the health of your blood. Because varicose veins develop when blood does not flow properly, causing it to pool in the legs and other areas of the body, it’s vital to eat the proper nutrients to cause blood to flow optimally. In order to maintain healthy blood circulation, be sure to eat a healthy diet that includes vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly. Be especially mindful of eating raw vegetables and fruits that contain vitamin E and other antioxidants that help to keep blood clean and on the move.
Wear compression stockings
Compression stockings (also referred to as compression socks or support hose) can be a vein specialist’s number one ‘go-to’ for patients who are newly diagnosed with varicose veins. Compression stockings work by squeezing blood that may be pooling in lower extremities up through the leg veins, thereby redirecting it where needs to go—the heart.
We all know that Americans tend to live a more sedentary lifestyle these days. But we here in the U.K. are not immune to this development. Many of us spend most of our days sitting in the front of the computer, and sedentary lifestyle is one of the major factors in developing varicose veins due to poor blood circulation. When it comes to healthy blood flow, all it takes are 30 minutes three to five times per week of steady cardio workouts. Walking is one of the best of these exercises because it gets blood flowing properly, and it’s a task nearly all of us can perform regularly.
Elevate your legs
Elevating your legs throughout the day can help to aid blood flow to the heart. If you simply cannot elevate your legs periodically throughout the day due to your occupation, do so when your work day ends. When you get home, lie down and elevate your legs above your heart. This is an easy and relaxing way to get blood circulating properly to your heart muscle.
Perform hand exercises
Legs, ankles, and feet are not the only areas on your body where you can develop varicose veins. You can also develop them on your hands. The good news here is that exercises can prevent or even aid in reversing varicose veins in the hands. One good hand exercise is to stretch out your hands first, then make a fist, then stretch them out again, and repeat. Another exercise for your hands to get blood flowing is to bend your palm and fingers back and forth, making sure to bend gently and never bending to the point of discomfort. Do these types of hand exercises several times a week, and be sure to include your thumbs.
Switch up your wardrobe
If you’re used to wearing tight clothes, consider loosening up a bit. Tight clothes restrict your blood from circulating properly throughout your body. And, of course, improper blood flow causes pooling blood that leads to varicose veins. Switch out those tight jeans or underwear for looser-fitting pants that allow blood to flow through your extremities more optimally. Another ‘wardrobe malfunction’ when it comes to improper blood flow can be wearing high heels. Cut down from wearing high heels every day to only wearing them for special events. Limiting these behaviours can prevent or help to reverse the appearance and discomfort of varicose veins.
Consider vitamin/ herb therapies
Many vitamin, herb, and mineral therapies can be effective natural treatments for varicose veins. Here are some of the most effective natural therapies for circulation problems:
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is beneficial because it improves blood circulation throughout the body. It also helps to reduce the pain of varicose veins.
Horse chestnut seed: Horse-chestnut aids in alleviating the symptoms of varicose veins, such as pain, burning, itching, and swelling.
Grapeseed: Grapeseed extract also has been reported in recent news as an aid in improving blood circulation from the heart to other organs in the body.
Ginko biloba extract: Ginko biloba extract aids tissue function by enhancing tissue oxygenation, which can help get blood circulating properly.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is another antioxidant that aids blood circulation, thereby preventing, or improving the effects of, varicose veins.
Minimally invasive varicose vein treatments
At times, natural therapies are not effective enough in treating varicose veins. For these patients, healthcare providers have a number of minimally invasive procedures that can be effective at reducing or even eliminating varicose veins and their symptoms. Just a few of these minimally invasive treatments include cyanoacrylate glue, VNUS, EVLT, and foam sclerotherapy .
This procedure has been utilised for over a decade with no major negative effects to patients. Cyanoacrylate seals larger varicose veins with the use of a glue-type substance. There are several advantages to this procedure, which include:
- Patients do not need to wear compression stockings
- Patients are afforded minimal recovery periods
- Procedure requires a single area of local anaesthetic
- Patients report high success rates
VNUS radio-frequency ablation offers patients a non-surgical alternative for treatment of varicose veins. It uses radio-frequency energy that heats and contracts the collagen inside vein walls, thereby causing unhealthy veins to collapse which seals them shut. The advantages of this procedure include:
- Patients have little down-time due to minimal recovery periods
- Patients experience little to no scarring
- Patients report long-lasting relief of their varicose vein symptoms
Endovenous laser treatment is a very effective and minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. During EVLT, a tiny laser-emitting fiber passes through unhealthy veins via a slight incision. This heats the vein wall and causes it to contract, thereby permanently shutting off the diseased vein. As with other minimally invasive treatments, when diseased veins are closed off, blood pooling stops, and blood is redirected to healthier veins. Just some of the advantages of EVLT include:
- High success rates due to low incidents of complications
- Patients report only mild swelling or discomfort
- Patients have little down-time due to minimal recovery periods
Sclerotherapy is another minimally invasive treatments that utilises a substance that is injected into unhealthy veins, thereby sealing them up and redirecting pooling blood to healthier veins. An effective treatment has now been developed for larger varicose veins which measure up to 1 centimetre in diameter. This procedure involves mixing this substance with air bubbles that creates a foam effective in shutting off these larger veins. This procedure’s advantages include:
- Requires only local anaesthesia in order to numb the skin
- Most patients can return to a normal routine soon after, often immediately following the procedure
- Complications are unusual, which may include bruising or discomfort that typically goes away quickly
Varicose veins develop due to unhealthy blood circulation. These diseased veins can lead to discomfort, pain, itching, burning, and a number of other very uncomfortable symptoms. Varicose veins also can lead to serious, life-threatening health conditions such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis), which can be fatal. The good news is that vein clinics offer a number of natural and minimally invasive treatments that are effective at reducing or even eliminating varicose veins and the symptoms associated with them.