Varicose veins are lumpy, bulging, blue veins on the legs. Women get them four times as often as men, and roughly half of the people above the age of 50 have some type of varicose vein (hemorrhoids are a varicose vein of the anus). Veins have little valves on the inner walls of the vessels to prevent blood from flowing backwards. Valves can become dysfunctional due to damage to the vein walls. When this occurs, it prevents proper one-way circulation and blood pools in the veins. The extra fluid causes the veins to stretch and bulge.
Although they are visually unappealing, generally, varicose veins are not harmful if they are small and appear close to the surface of the skin. However, if varicose veins are located deeper within the leg, ulcerations, deep-vein blood clots or bleeding under the skin can occur. In serious cases, there can be complications such as inflammation of the veins (phlebitis), clots that can relocate in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and leg ulcerations requiring immediate medical attention.
When the veins get sluggish, the legs can feel tight, heavy or restless, and there can be aches or leg cramps, pain and swelling. The veins may itch and sores may develop.
Veins are fragile and pressure caused by being overweight, smoking, pregnancy and occupational environment (too much standing, sitting or heavy lifting) causes the veins to dilate, leading to damage of the valves. In fact, 10 times the normal pressure is forced on the veins if you are standing for many hours. Other factors include heart or liver disease, constipation, tumors in the abdomen, vitamin C deficiency, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy and genetic predisposition.
PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTH
Sclerotherapy and surgery by a specialist to remove large and bulging veins can have excellent results. The following recommendations are effective at eliminating spider veins at the surface, but larger veins will most often not be eliminated, only reduced in size with symptoms alleviated.
Reduce weight; even 10 extra pounds puts added pressure on your venous system.
Eat foods high in fiber.
Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of pure, filtered water every day. Water maintains a healthy level of blood volume and prevents constipation.
Apply witch hazel ointment topically twice a day to reduce swelling and tone veins.
Avoid standing or sitting for long periods. Regular exercise is mandatory for circulation disorders and maintaining weight.
Stop smoking. Nicotine constricts blood vessels.
When traveling for long periods of time, make sure that you stand up and move around every once in awhile to keep circulation going and prevent blood clots from forming in the veins. Wear loose fitting clothing and drink plenty of water.
Supportive elastic stockings, specifically for varicose veins, in combination with the above recommendations, can dramatically reduce the appearance of unsightly veins.
Hydrotherapy can alleviate pain and improve circulation. Fill a bathtub full of cold water, get in and walk on the spot for 20 minutes (Use an anti-slip tub mat.) An alternative is to spray cold water on the legs, front and back, for ten seconds every morning in the shower.
When sitting or lying down, raise the legs above the heart for 20 minutes every day.
Shift your weight and stand on your toes periodically if you must stand for long periods of time. If you sit at a desk, wiggle your toes and flex your leg muscles to keep blood flowing. Do not cross your legs and avoid putting pressure on your legs.
Do not scratch veins if they are itchy, as you may cause further damage.
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