What are varicose and spider veins?
Spider veins and varicose veins are common conditions that concern many adults – up to 50% of the adult population. Simply put, varicose veins are especially enlarged blood vessels that are typically purple, blue or skin-colored and can be raised above the surface of the skin.
Spider veins are clusters of tiny blood vessels that develop close to the surface of the skin. Their color range from blue to red and as the name suggests, they look very much like a spider web. Luckily, there are many varicose and spider veins treatment options available.
It is known that women are affected by these conditions more than men. Why women more than men? Well, there is a hormone called progesterone largely to blame. Both men and women produce progesterone, however women more than men. Progesterone is a natural hormone our bodies produce to maintain various vital organs. However, it also helps to relax the walls of blood vessels and this is what ultimately results in the development of spider or varicose veins.
When the walls of blood vessels weaken then the blood can start pooling in the leg which in time results in varicose or spider veins. However, other factors can increase your risk of getting them as well. For example, your weight, your diet, medications, how often you exercise and prolonged sitting/standing, to name a few.
Spider veins and varicose veins often don’t have any symptoms besides being visible on the skin. However, some people can experience uncomfortable and problematic symptoms from varicose veins. For example:
- aching and heaviness
- itching and irritation
- cramping of the legs
These symptoms usually get worse if the person stands or sits for a too long time. Varicose veins may also increase the risk of blood clots and circulation problems.
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How to get rid of varicose veins and spider veins?
Natural remedies for varicose veins and spider veins
Either if it’s solely for cosmetic reasons or spider and varicose veins are causing you any other problematic symptoms, there are several ways how they can be treated. Options vary from support stockings to laser therapy and vein surgery.
Natural herbs for varicose veins and spider veins
Natural oils can also be very beneficial for treating symptoms of varicose and spider veins. They are applied topically and usually include homeopathic ingredients that penetrate deep into skin tissue and reduce swelling and discomfort caused by varicose and spider veins. By applying the product consistently over time, problematic veins will start to fade from the skin.
Studies show that extracts from the Richweed plant (Collinsonia canadensis L) and Horse chestnut plant (Aesculus hippocastanum) help to reduce leg pain, itching, and heaviness.
Be sure to use products that are FDA listed for safe spider veins and varicose vein treatment and that are 100% natural. One of those products that many people have found helpful is this one here.
Support and compression stockings
These come in many forms. They can be pantyhose, stockings or socks and they work because they place pressure on the veins. This improves blood flow and hence may prevent varicose veins and spider veins from appearing. Since they improve blood flow they may also help to relieve pain and leg swelling and also decrease the risk of blood clots in the legs. A study done in 2018 found that people who used knee-high compression stockings with pressures of 18 to 21 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for 1 week, reported a reduction in the pain and aching that is associated with varicose veins.
Deciding which compression stockings to use depends on what type of varicose veins a person has. There are three main kinds of compression stockings:
- Support pantyhose – these are the least tight option, they exert only some pressure.
- Compression socks and stockings – There is a wide range of pressures to choose from and they provide more support than pantyhose.
- Prescription compression stockings – these are fitted by a specialist to ensure they are effective but at the same time not too tight. These stockings exert the greatest amount of pressure.
You should consult with your doctor to find out which support stockings are best for you based on the severity of the varicose veins. Compression stockings are usually worn during daytime since circulation problems are mostly caused by standing and sitting.
However, a thing to keep in mind is that support and compression stockings can also have negative side effects. These may include:
- broken skin
- skin irritation
To avoid this it’s important to make sure the stockings are in the correct size and worn correctly. Make sure they are not wrinkled and it’s also important not to wear stockings for too long.
Exercises for varicose veins and spider veins
Getting enough exercise is good for many aspects of your health. Regular exercise encourages blood circulation in the legs, which helps to push along the blood that has collected in the veins. Exercising also helps to maintain a healthy weight because weight is another risk factor for developing varicose veins. it’s also important to avoid sitting and standing for long periods of time.
What exercise is good for varicose veins?
- Swimming – it’s a great way for exercising because, in addition to working your legs, it puts the legs at heart level and avoids the pooling of blood in the legs.
- Walking – it’s one of the best ways of exercising because it’s a very low-impact workout. It doesn’t strain your body and helps to strengthen your calf muscles. It helps to push blood upward and diminishes backflow.
- Cycling – helps to invigorate blood circulation. Wearing compression stockings while cycling will boost blood flow as well.
- Yoga – Yoga involves a lot of stretching which is great for relieving swelling and soreness in the legs.
- Elevating your legs – This is often recommended by doctors. It helps to reduce the swelling and make your veins do less work. Blood usually needs to defy gravity and make it way back to your heart. If you elevate your legs regularly you’ll give your heart and veins a break for a while. Things to remember:
1. When elevating legs, raise them above your heart
2. Use cushions or pillows
3. Do it at least 3 times a day (you can do it while watching TV, reading a book or even while doing some work on your laptop)
Are there any exercises that should be avoided?
This depends on the severity of your varicose veins, however running and weightlifting usually are not recommended. These exercises put a lot of pressure on your legs and veins circulation. If you can’t live without running then it’s recommended to run on grass or another soft surface to avoid jarring and pounding of legs. If you wish to continue doing weightlifting then it’s recommended to lift with lighter weights, wear compression socks during and after lifting. Immediately after doing weightlifting do some walking or cycling as this gets the blood circulation going again.
Healthy eating habits are important to prevent varicose veins. Eating a lot of salty foods can put more pressure on the veins by increasing the volume of fluids. It’s important to eat foods high in potassium as they can help to reduce water retention.
Foods that are high in potassium include:
- leafy vegetables
- fish such as salmon and tuna
- white beans and lentils
- pistachio nuts and almonds
Another thing to keep in mind is to eat less highly processed foods and rather choose foods that are high in fiber. Getting enough fiber from food is important for maintaining and improving your health. Some of these foods include:
- nuts and seeds
- whole-grain foods
- oats and flaxseed
Another food group to pay attention to is foods that contain flavonoids. For example:
- vegetables (including spinach, broccoli, and onions)
- apples, citrus fruits, cherries, and blueberries
Flavonoids are important since they improve blood circulation which reduces the risk of blood pooling in the veins. They can also reduce the blood pressure which can reduce varicose veins.
Other remedies for varicose and spider veins
Sclerotherapy and laser therapy
Another option for varicose and spider veins treatment is sclerotherapy and laser therapy. These are therapies performed by your doctor and local anesthesia is needed only for laser therapy. Sclerotherapy is a procedure in which a solution injected into the veins that cause the affected veins to scar and close. This will make the blood to reroute through other healthier veins. However, keep in mind that the procedure might need to be repeated for the same vein and side effects like swelling, itching ad skin color changes in the treated area may occur.
Laser therapy is a therapy in which local anesthesia is needed and no incisions or needles are used. The therapy consists of sending light bursts or radiofrequency energy into the vein which makes the vein slowly disappear. This therapy also may have side effects similar to sclerotherapy and the treatment itself is often less effective than sclerotherapy.
Natural oils and home remedies do not work overnight but they tend to work better in the long term. It takes time and consistency to see the effects. However, sclerotherapy and laser therapy don’t have long-lasting effects either. It’s definitely worth making some changes in your daily habits and opt for natural products rather than going under the knife or laser.
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