What are Varicose Veins?

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are swollen, gnarled veins that are visible just under the surface of the skin. While they can be formed pretty much anywhere in the body, varicose veins usually occur in the legs. This is because walking and standing upright increases the pressure on the veins in the lower part of our body, as compared to the pressure exerted on veins present in the other parts.

How to Detect Varicose Veins?

Early Signs

  • Appearance of veins that are dark blue or purple in color usually on the legs.
  • Veins begin to look like cords on the legs, and appear all twisted and bulging.

Worst Case Scenarios

  • Aching, heavy and uncomfortable feeling in the legs.
  • Cramping of muscles, burning, swelling up and throbbing sensation in the legs.
  • Itchy feeling around the swollen veins.
  • Trouble standing up or sitting down for a long time.
  • Bleeding from varicose veins.
  • Color changes, drying/hardening of the skin, inflammation of the skin or formation of skin ulcers, usually near the ankle (indicating immediate medical attention required)

Impact of Cold Weather and Other Environment Conditions on Varicose Veins

Winter is an important time to prevent the onset of Varicose Veins as it affects the blood circulation in the body, thus building up more pressure. This increases the possibility of occurrence of varicose veins. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can prevent this scenario.

  • by keeping your legs elevated for at least 30 mins before going to sleep
  • by eating a fiber-rich diet which helps promote blood circulation in the body
  • by doing enough stretching exercises throughout the day, especially before going to bed
  • by doing deep breathing and meditation exercises
  • by massaging ankles and lower parts of the legs whenever you can

Apart from the cold, winter is also a season of holidays. Weight gain is common during the winter months as people tend to indulge in feasts and do lesser amount of exercise because of the chilly weather. On top of that, when it snows, the atmospheric pressure changes considerably causing the blood circulation to become less efficient. This means your legs have to work extra hard to pump the blood back to the heart, thus increasing the stress on the veins. All of this makes the legs feel heavy and uncomfortable, and contributes to the occurrence of varicose veins in the body.

Factors That Increase the Risk of Varicose Veins

  • Obesity - Being overweight puts extra pressure on your veins, as they have to work harder to pump the blood back to the heart. This can lead to varicose veins.
  • Pregnancy - The amount of blood in the body increases to support the developing embryo during pregnancy. This puts an extra strain on the veins. Also, as the embryo develops, it begins to gain weight and puts more strain on veins (especially in the pelvic area) causing them to become varicose.
  • Unhealthy Diet - Eating excessively or unhealthy can lead to obesity and/or heart related issues. Both of these conditions assert a strain on the veins as they have to do extra work. If you are not exercising properly, an improper and unbalanced diet can lead to varicose veins.
  • Age - As we age, the valves present in our veins register more and more wear and tear causing them to weaken and malfunction. As a result, blood begins to clot up in the veins instead of being circulated back to the heart.
  • Genetics - As many as half of the people who have had a varicose veins patient in the family, have a higher risk of developing them too. This suggests that genetics might have a prominent role in the development of varicose veins.

Quick Home Remedy For Varicose Veins

Certain home remedies can help alleviate the pain caused by varicose veins and decrease their overall severity levels.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar - It is a natural body cleanser and also improves the blood circulation and blood flow. This helps in decreasing the strain on the swollen veins and causes much comfort in pain. You can either apply the undiluted vinegar directly to the affected area twice in the day, or drink it with a glass of water two times in a day.
  • Olive Oil - Massaging with olive oil helps to promote blood circulation, thus reducing the pain and inflammation of the veins. Massage twice everyday with warm olive oil and Vitamin E oil or cypress essence for a month to get better.
  • Garlic - It is an excellent herb for reducing pain and inflammation in the human body. What's more it also helps remove harmful toxins in the blood, thereby, increasing the blood circulation. You can use garlic as a mixture along with olive oil and orange juice to massage the affected area as a remedy. Also, it helps a lot to include fresh garlic in your diet regularly.
  • Cayenne Pepper - It is considered as a "miracle" treatment for varicose veins. Cayenne pepper is a rich source of Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, both of which help promote the blood circulation and reduce the pain caused by swollen and gnarled veins.
  • Horse Chestnut Seeds - These have been used for ages for treating varicose veins. That's because they have excellent anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling properties that help function the veins properly and reduce the severity of the varicose veins.

Types of Varicose Veins Treatment

Varicose veins compression stockings

Varicose veins usually don't warrant a medical treatment, if they are not causing you any discomfort or pain. A treatment is usually deemed necessary if there are:

  • - pain, blood clotting or leg ulcers,
  • - skin discoloration or too much swelling and,
  • - any cosmetic reason to remove the varicose veins.

Even if a treatment is required, your doctor will first suggest treating the varicose veins by yourself at home and by making lifestyle changes. Various self treatments for varicose veins include -

  • using compression stockings,
  • doing regular exercises,
  • avoiding standing/sitting up for long periods of time and,
  • elevating the affected area for at least 30 minutes.

Further medical treatment can be suggested by the doctors if there is no improvement in the condition of the varicose veins even after undergoing home or self treatment. Based on the severity of the varicose veins and the general health status of your body, your doctor can suggest any of these varicose vein treatments available.

  • Laser Surgery - Using this method, doctors can potentially close off the varicose veins and make them disappear by sending short, strong bursts of laser on them. Once the affected vein is closed off, the blood flow is naturally directed towards the healthier veins. This prevents the needs of any surgery or incision on the body.
  • Sclerotherapy - In this treatment method, a solution is injected into the small and medium sized varicose veins that scars them and closes them off. The injected veins then disappear in a few weeks.
  • Radio frequency Ablation - A thin tube (catheter) is inserted into the affected veins and then using radio frequency energy, the tip of the catheter is heated up. As the catheter is pulled out, the heat causes the walls of the varicose veins to collapse and seal off. The blood flow then takes place through the healthy veins. The entire process is carried out under local anaesthetic and the patient might be required to wear compression stockings for a few weeks after the procedure.
  • Surgery - If the Sclerotherapy and the ablation treatments fail, a proper surgery is recommended by the doctors called ligation. It is usually carried out under a general anaesthetic and involves removing the varicose veins surgically.

Specific Doctors to See for Varicose Veins Treatment

A Vascular specialist (a doctor specializing in treatment of veins) is the best person suited to recommend the level and kind of medical treatment required for varicose veins for a person. Talk to one if all the home remedies or self treatment procedures fail to placate the state of varicose veins in your body.