The word varicose comes from the Latin word varix, which means ‘twisted’. Varicose veins are a condition of the circulatory system. The veins in your legs and feet are the most commonly affected veins because of the increased pressure placed upon them from standing and walking.
Some people experience no symptoms while you may present with fatigue, aches and pains, a heavy sensation in your legs, burning, throbbing, numbness, itching around the affected veins, muscle cramping and swelling in your legs especially around the ankles. Varicose veins are dark purple or blue and may appear twisted, protruding or flat. Common sites are on the backs of the calves, behind the knees or on the inside of the legs but can still appear elsewhere on your legs.
Extended periods of sitting or standing tend to make your legs feel worse.
Skin ulcers that appear near your ankle represent a severe form of vascular disease and require medical attention.
Tendency to develop haemorrhoids, which are varicose veins located in and around the anus.
Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins and look like a spider’s web. They are closer to the skin’s surface and are usually red or blue. Common sites are on the legs and the face.
Why it happens?
Arteries carry blood filled with nutrients and oxygen from your heart to your body and veins return blood from your body to your heart. There are one-way valves in your veins, which open as blood flows toward your heart then close to stop back flow of blood.
Your veins may not function properly and cause blood that should be moving toward your heart to flow backward. This results in blood pooling up in veins becoming varicose. Risk factors that cause your veins to loose elasticity, stretch and become varicose include:
- Standing on your feet for long periods
- Sedentary occupation
- Obesity, which causes extra strain on the circulatory system
- Genetic weakness of the veins or venous valves
- Low fibre diet causing increased straining during bowel movements
- Heavy lifting
- Unsupportive footwear such as high heels
- Crossing legs while sitting
- Ageing in general
What natural therapies can help?
Horsechestnut seed extract – has been clinically proven to help relieve painful, swollen and itchy legs in varicose vein sufferers. Look for standardised products that provide escin as the active constituent.
Grapeseed extract contains oxidant compounds called oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) that help maintain the integrity of the blood vessels and relieve varicose veins.
Ginkgo assists blood circulation to the peripheral areas of the body such as the legs, hands and feet. It is also an antioxidant and free radical scavenger.
Witch hazel is an extremely astringent herb and applied topically can help to tighten and tone varicose veins, relieving pain and swelling.
Vitamin E – aids peripheral circulation.
Did you know?
- Improving your circulation and muscle tone can reduce the risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones.
- Exercise and stretch your legs regularly especially when sitting or standing for long periods. Try to move around at least every 30 minutes. Sitting with your legs crossed can interfere with circulation.
- Weight loss comes with many health benefits such as less strain on the circulatory system and bone joints. Speak to a dietician or naturopath who can assist you to develop a sensible weight loss program.
- Increase fibre in your diet to help decrease straining with bowel movements.
- Smoking places excessive pressure on your cardiovascular system. Investigate ways to give a smoking.
- If you must wear high heels at work try wearing joggers to and from work. Low-heeled shoes work calf muscles more, which is better for your veins.
- Take a break and improve venous circulation, at the end of every day elevate your legs above the level of your heart.
- Compression or elastic stockings support your legs by helping veins and leg muscles move blood more efficiently.