General, Women's Health | October 27, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
Varicose veins are abnormally enlarged, elongated superficial veins, usually occurring in the legs. They have a knobbly, darkish-blue appearance that bulge out from under the skin. They are caused by a weakness in the venous walls, valvular incompetence or increased intraluminal pressure. Due to the abnormal widening of the veins, blood can flow in the wrong direction which causes them to stretch even further. Varicose veins occur in 10-20% of the population and can happen at any age, however they are most common between 50-60 years of age.
Risk factors for the development of varicose veins include:
Primary varicose veins are usually asymptomatic and are mainly associated with only cosmetic concerns. Secondary varicose veins are of greater concern and are usually accompanied with the following signs and symptoms:
Avoid prolonged sitting or standing as these activities can contribute to the development of varicose veins. Avoid wearing high heels as they affect the proper functioning of the larger veins.
Maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking and get regular moderate exercise.
Eat a diet rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids which help to strengthen collagen tissues. These include berries, citrus, dark green leafy vegetables, onions and garlic.
Following a Mediterranean diet will help to ensure a healthy heart, blood vessels and circulation. It is recommended to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, cold-water fish, olive oil and low in processed foods.
Increase circulation. Foods that can be included as part of the diet that increase circulation include chili, ginger and garlic.
Follow the same preventative guidelines mentioned above as well as further recommendations that assist in relieving the symptoms, improving the appearance and preventing complications.
Elevate the legs periodically by lying down or using a footstool. This helps to relieve the symptoms of varicose veins by increasing venous return.
Avoid heavy lifting, crossing your legs and putting any unnecessary pressure on the legs. If you are standing or sitting for extended periods, take regular breaks to walk or stretch. If sitting at a desk use a low foot stool to rest your feet.
Compression stockings can prevent the veins from stretching and causing pain. These are particularly helpful for people who stand all day.
Cold compresses of witch hazel and yarrow may help to provide temporary relief. This can be achieved by saturating a cloth in a herbal infusion that has been chilled in the fridge and applying to the affected area. Applying an ice pack can also aid in pain relief. Finish a shower or bath with cold water for a minute to help increase circulation and reduce pain in the legs.
Acupuncture and massage may be helpful in reducing venous congestion and improving overall circulation.
Horsechestnut has been traditionally used for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency and to help alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins. In an article that reviewed 5 clinical trials, it was found that extracts from the fresh seed of horsechestnut reduced lower leg oedema, alleviated leg pain, heaviness and itching.
Butcher’s broom is a similar herb that is also used to increase venous tone. A study has shown it can reduce ankle oedema and the sensation of heavy, tense, tingling legs.
Red vine leaf is also indicated for varicose veins as it has been shown to increase oxygen supply, act as an antioxidant and increase microcirculation in people suffering from venous insufficiency.
Grape seed extract is another popular choice for treatment as it stimulates circulation, neutralises free radical damage by acting as an antioxidant and strengthens connective tissue, including that of the cardiovascular system.
Circulatory herbs such as yarrow, hawthorn and gingko can also be helpful in improving circulation in the legs.
Herbs useful for topical application in a cream base include horsechestnut, butcher’s broom, comfrey, calendula and witchhazel. For a cooling effect on hot, inflamed varicose veins try aloe vera gel.Important Nutrients
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, particularly rutin, are important to help maintain the strength of blood vessels, aid in circulation and act as antioxidants.
Vitamin E can be helpful in improving circulation and aid in preventing the feeling of “heavy legs”.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids from fish oil can reduce inflammation, be helpful to reduce pain and keep blood vessels soft and pliable. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce thrombotic risk in susceptible individuals (risk of blood clot).
Homeopathy can be an effective way to treat varicose veins, especially as it is safe for use during pregnancy and for people taking medications. Ferrum metallicum, Hamamelis virginiana and Pulsatilla are all homeopathics that are commonly prescribed to treat varicose veins.
Many dietary, lifestyle and natural remedies can be adopted to help in not only the prevention of varicose veins but in their management. It is important to focus on activities and nutrients that assist in improving circulation and in maintaining healthy veins.
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Suter A, et al. Treatment of patients with venous insufficiency with fresh plant horse chestnut seed extract: a review of 5 clinical studies. Adv Ther. 2006 Jan-Feb;23(1):179-90
Vanscheidt W, et al. Efficacy and safety of a butcher’s broom preparation (Ruscus aculeatus L. extract) compared to placebo in patients suffering from chronic venous insufficiency. Arzneimittelforschung. 2002;52(4):243-50
Grau M, et al. The red-vine-leaf extract AS195 increases nitric oxide synthase-dependent nitric oxide generation and decreases oxidative stress in endothelial and red blood cells. Pharmacol Res Perspect. 2016 Feb 8;4(1):e00213
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