Varicose veins are an unsightly problem that affects millions of people in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men have varicose veins, and approximately half of all people who are over the age of 50 suffer from them.
These veins are gnarled and enlarged and most commonly appear in the feet and legs. While they are only a cosmetic problem for some people, others may experience pain. Varicose veins can also lead to other conditions that are more serious.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood back to the heart from other tissues in the body. Veins that are located in the lower extremities must work against gravity and may become inelastic over time.
There are several causes of varicose veins. As people age, their veins may become less elastic and allow some of the blood they are pumping to the heart to flow backward. The blood can pool in the veins and cause them to enlarge.
Another common cause of varicose veins is pregnancy. Pregnant women have more blood that is circulating in their bodies, and some of the blood is diverted away from the legs to help the growing fetuses. This may cause varicose veins to develop. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also cause varicose veins to develop in the legs.
The Mayo Clinic reports the following risk factors for varicose veins:
- Family history
- Remaining in the same position for long periods of time
Non-invasive Treatment Options
There are several non-invasive treatment options for people who have varicose veins, including the following:
- Compression socks
- Chestnut essential oil
Exercise can help varicose veins if it is a low-impact aerobic exercise. Weightlifting can cause varicose veins because of the strain and pressure that it can place on the veins. Good exercises to try for varicose veins include walking around 30 minutes each day or riding on an elliptical machine. If you lift weights, try lowering the amount of weights and do more reps. Always use the proper form when you are lifting weights. Low-impact exercises help to strengthen your muscles while improving your circulation.
Compressions socks are also helpful for people who have varicose veins. These work by providing additional pressure to aid the flow of your blood back to the heart and to prevent pooling.
Almonds are healthy snacks that also provide benefits to your circulatory system. These nuts are rich in potassium, which helps to prevent water retention. Pistachios are also good choices for you if you have varicose veins because they are also rich in potassium.
According to a study that was published in the journal Advances in Therapy, chestnut essential oil that is derived from horse chestnuts is an effective treatment for varicose veins. The researchers found that people who took horse chestnut oil experienced a reduction in edema, pain, and heaviness from varicose veins.
Other Treatment Options
There are also other treatment options that you can try to get rid of varicose veins.
One treatment that might be used to treat smaller varicose veins that are called spider veins is sclerotherapy. This treatment involves injecting a substance called a sclerosant into the affected vein. When this substance is injected, it causes scarring in the affected vein that causes its collapse. Your blood is then rerouted by your body to veins that are healthy. The substance that is used is called sodium tetradecyl sulfate. It may be injected directly into smaller veins. For larger veins, the sclerosant may be a foam so that it is able to cover more surface area.
Endovenous laser ablation is another treatment option for varicose veins. In this procedure, your doctor will numb the affected vein and use an ultrasound to see your varicose vein. He or she will then use a wire catheter through which a laser fiber is passed. The catheter containing the laser fiber will be threaded through the vein. The heat from the laser causes the vein to close. Over time, it will shrink and be absorbed by your body.
Varicose veins may be a cosmetic issue for many people while others will also have to deal with other symptoms, including swelling and pain. Fortunately, there are several treatments that are available that can help to alleviate your symptoms and destroy your varicose veins. To learn more about varicose veins and the treatment options that might work the best for you, you should conduct your own research and talk to your doctor.