How to deal with varicose veins? Movement and compression.

Article

01. 09. 2020

Varicose veins, also known as varicosities, usually occur on the lower limbs when veins become enlarged, dilated and overfilled with blood. They may be blue or dark purple in colour, and if not treated in a timely manner, painful complications may develop that carry with them numerous unpleasant symptoms. 

Veins explained: Why do varicose veins form at all? 

The venous system consists of both deep and superficial veins. Our arteries carry oxygenated blood from our heart to the tissues of our body, while veins transport oxygen-deprived blood back to the heart. The flow of blood from the lower limbs of the body towards the heart is possible as valves close off the veins after each pulse, preventing back-flow caused by gravity. When the function of a venous valve is impaired, blood accumulates and increases pressure on the walls of the vein, causing it to dilate. Early venous insufficiency can be easily overlooked and usually presents itself in the form of small venous spiders. Without appropriate treatment, these can develop into varicose veins, that have a characteristically bumpy and pigmented appearance. In the final stage, these can turn into venous ulcers which are accompanied by a burning pain. If you experience any of the above problems, contact your doctor, who will perform a. examination to assess the condition of the lower limbs and perform an ultrasound. 

Symptoms of varicose veins

Varicose veins, in their milder forms, are generally considered to be a purely aesthetic problem, however, a few years down the line, many realise that they are not just visually problematic. Pain, or tingling, burning, swelling, itching and the feeling of heavy and tired legs are only a few of the common symptoms. It is not uncommon to see a hardening and sensitivity of the skin around the veins, redness and eczema as well. Patients mostly suffer from these symptoms during the day and in the evening. The summer months with warm temperatures and more UV activity exacerbate the symptoms of varicose veins. The severity of varicose veins should not be downplayed. Venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms are often referred to in connection with varicose veins. 

Risk factors and prevention

Varicose veins are among the most common diseases in our civilisation. They affect more women than men, as pregnancy and hormonal changes (menopause, contraception) increase the risk of their occurrence. In particular, the female hormone progesterone, has adverse effects on the venous system. Genetics, obesity, unhealthy diet, sedentary work and long-standing times can increase the risk of developing varicose veins. Women should best give up high heels and clothes that are too tight. Unfortunately, a genetic factor is undeniable, however, a healthy lifestyle is often a good preventive measure. A varied diet including plenty of fibre (fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) and a good fluid intake is key. A fibre deficiency can lead to not only constipation, but also to varicose veins occurring in the rectum (haemorrhoids). Eat buckwheat, citrus fruits, berries, red grapes, and foods rich in bioflavonoids. In addition to their great taste, you will support the integrity of your capillaries, and supply the body with much-needed antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the body.

Aim to maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise is good for your overall health, but also for your varicose veins. Choose your favourite physical activity- swimming, hiking, cycling, yoga, or jogging. If you have venous problems, strength training, horse riding, aerobics, squash, weight training and sauna are not recommended. 

What are the treatment options?

The key treatment are compression stockings, which are divided into several types depending on the severity of the issue. Some creams and gels can help soothe and relieve symptoms. Consult with an expert regarding the option of removing varicose veins- sclerosing of the veins in which an active substance is applied onto the venous wall leading to its removal. Another option is gentle laser surgery or a surgical removal procedure which is done under general anaesthesia. 

Tips that work for us! 

  • When showering, alternate between hot and cold water. Always end with cold water. 
  • Limit your salt intake- the body will not retain as much water 
  • Before falling asleep, exercise your legs and place them so that they are 10cm higher than your heart
  • Wear socks with a looser elastic and wear comfortable shoes
  • Supplement with vitamin C, B and E. 
  • Herbal gels containing horse chestnut can help with swelling and pain
  • Are you planning a long flight? Discuss it with your physician. Make sure to stand up often and walk around the flight deck- stretch your limbs and pay attention to your fluid intake
  • Reduce smoking tobacco, preferably quit all together!

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