Varicose and spider veins are those tiny lines that are visible all over your legs. Varicose veins and spider veins can steal your confidence and make you feel uncomfortable about putting on your bathing suit to go swimming or wearing shorts to make the most of the warm weather.
If this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone? Millions of Americans have varicose veins – estimates suggest that up to 60 percent of men and women over age 60 have them, which is one reason why varicose vein removal is a popular surgery. But there are more than just cosmetic concerns.
What are Varicose Veins?
As we’ve said, varicose veins aren’t pretty. Basically, they are gnarled, enlarged veins. Any vein can become varicose, but that most commonly affected area in your legs and feet. Standing and walking increase the pressure in the veins of your lower body. Not all veins are swollen and unsightly, though. Some are small and commonly known as spider veins – a milder form of varicose veins – while others look like cords lying across the surface of the skin.
If you have them, you know that some of these veins hurt, while others are just unappealing to look at. Some varicose veins are harmless, while some may be signs of another medical condition entirely or lead to more serious problems and circulatory concerns.
Causes of Varicose Veins
How do you get varicose veins in the first place? Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues, and then your veins return blood from the rest of your body through one-way valves to your heart, so the blood can’t flow backward but is carried to your heart where it can be recirculated.
Diseased veins, however, have weakened valves, which allow blood to flow backward and pool inside the veins. This leads to pressure inside the veins, resulting in venous disease.
The problem is, as you get older, your veins can lose elasticity, causing them to stretch. That can make the valves in your veins weak. Blood pools in your veins and your veins enlarge and become varicose. They appear blue because they contain deoxygenated blood – it’s still in the process of being recirculated through the lungs. You’re also at higher risk for varicose veins if you have a family history of the problem.
Signs and Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of preventing varicose veins, let’s examine the signs and symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, for the most part, varicose veins usually don’t cause any pain, so signs you may have varicose veins include:
- Veins that are dark purple or blue in color
- Veins that appear twisted and bulging, often like cords on your legs
If you do experience pain and discomfort, these symptoms may include:
- An achy or heavy feeling in your legs
- Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping, and swelling in your lower legs
- Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
- Itching around one or more of your veins
- Skin ulcers near your ankle can mean you have a serious form of vascular disease that requires medical attention.
As we’ve mentioned, spider veins are the most common form of varicose veins. They’re closer to the skin’s surface and are red or blue. They are found on the legs but can also occur on the face. Why the name? Spider veins vary in size and often look like a spider’s web.
Preventative Measures for Varicose Veins
While there’s no way to completely prevent varicose veins, improving circulation and muscle tone certainly can reduce your risk. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Watching your weight
- Eating a high-fiber, low-salt diet
- Avoiding high heels and tight hosiery
- Elevating your legs
- Changing your sitting or standing position regularly (Keep in mind that crossing your legs won’t cause varicose veins but can make them worse.)
Home Remedies for Varicose Veins
As well to the preventive measures, there are excellent home remedies to put into practice. Consider the following:
A practical place to begin is your diet. Start by consuming more vitamin C-rich foods, and eat a diet that is high in fiber. Fiber helps prevent constipation and the straining associated with constipation, which can cause and aggravate varicose veins. Reduce your intake of salt because salt can make varicose veins more visible by increasing swelling within the veins.
Potassium-high foods can also help varicose veins by reducing water retention in the body. High in potassium foods include almonds and pistachio nuts, potatoes, and leafy vegetables.
Dietary changes for varicose veins should also include adding more flavonoids. Flavonoids can help improve blood circulation, which will help keep the blood flowing and make it less likely to pool in the veins. Foods that contain flavonoids include garlic, cocoa, onions, bell peppers, grapes, and blueberries.
Horse chestnut seed extract
Horse chestnut is arguably one of the best herbal natural remedies for varicose veins. It contains a compound known as an aescin that helps to thin the blood and promote circulation. It also helps to prevent fluid from leaking out of veins, and preliminary research suggests that it can reduce the swelling and discomfort associated with varicose veins.
For best results, choose a supplement with the toxic compound esculin removed and standardized to contain at least 15 percent aescin.
Hot oil massages
Need another good reason for a massage? Regularly massaging your legs with essential oils will improve circulation and may help to reduce the pain and swelling associated with varicose veins. Any essential oil will do, but neroli oil is considered especially beneficial because it increases circulation and stimulates the growth of new cells.
The best way to perform the massage is to sit up with your legs raised slightly on a pillow and start from your ankles and work your way up to the top of your legs. Make gentle, upward strokes and spend about five minutes on each leg daily. However, be sure to avoid directly massaging the varicose veins because this can aggravate them.
Apple cider vinegar
While there’s no hard science behind it, apple cider vinegar is one of the most highly touted natural remedies for varicose veins – and there is certainly no risk in trying it. Saturate a cloth in apple cider vinegar and apply it to your varicose veins for 30 minutes daily while elevating your legs in a comfortable position.
In addition to applying it externally, add one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink one in the morning and then another glass at night. Consider rinsing your mouth with water to avoid eroding tooth enamel because of the acidity.
Daily exercise can go a long way to helping with varicose veins. Exercise will help improve circulation and promote the return of blood to the heart. Plan for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, and be sure to take frequent “walk breaks” to help stimulate blood flow in the legs and throughout the body. Low impact exercise can help to get the calf muscles working without excessive strain. These include walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga.
This herbal remedy, also known as box holly or knee holly, can help to strengthen collagen in blood vessel walls and improve circulation. It has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years, and studies show it provides relief for varicose veins and other ailments such as hemorrhoid treatment.
Compression stockings are a common treatment for varicose veins. They have been shown to help improve blood circulation in the affected areas and are easy to use. They are available over the counter, or a doctor can prescribe a stronger compression sock if necessary.
We have already mentioned a couple of herbal remedies for varicose veins, but many more can help with this condition. This includes remedies that can be taken internally and topically. Just keep in mind that plant extracts should always be diluted with a carrier oil before using topically. Speak with your doctor about which herbal remedies may be best for you.
Keep the legs elevated
Keeping the legs elevated can help to improve circulation. Legs should ideally be at the same height as the heart or above it to help improve circulation. This can help to reduce the pressure in the leg veins so gravity can help the blood flow smoothly back to the heart.
With these natural remedies to prevent varicose veins, you can minimize your risk as you age and forget about costly removal surgery. Here’s to feeling great in your summer shorts!