By Michael Russell

Varicose veins are a very common problem and often run in families. Women are more susceptible to varicose veins than men. Being overweight increases the pressure on the superficial veins, which can lead to varicose veins. Varicose veins occur when the small superficial veins in the skin of the legs become distorted and dilated. They appear on the surface of the skin as swollen, lumpy and purple cords. In healthy veins there are one-way valves to make sure the blood flows in the right direction, which is from superficial to deep veins and then to the heart. Faulty valves in the superficial or deep veins means that the blood can flow backwards, from deep to superficial and overfill the small veins. Some people believe that varicose veins are the result of long periods of standing, such as hairdressers or people having to work in a shop. This is actually incorrect and standing may only aggravate an already existing problem, but will not cause it.

Varicose veins can ache and sometimes even bleed and may further lead to ulcers around the ankle, which are difficult to treat. Varicose veins can cause the skin at the ankle to change, to firstly an itchy rash and then a brown pigmentation that easily can breakdown into an ulcer.

If you have varicose veins there are some simple self-help measures you can follow to help you feel more comfortable.

• Avoid standing for long periods

• Keep the blood flowing in your legs by exercising or going for walks during the day

• When sitting put up your feet and rest them on a stool or chair where possible

• Raise your feet when you are in bed

• If your doctor recommends elasticized support stockings, then wear them

• Lose some weight if you are overweight

• Some herbal treatment that may be effective to soothe painful varicose veins is the application of a cold compress of Witch Hazel or marigold flowers.

• Another natural home remedy is to massage your legs gently with basil oil.

• For ulcerated veins, massage gently with frankincense essential oil.

Although varicose veins are ugly and painful, surgery will only be carried out if there is the possibility of leg ulcers developing. However, there are some people who have the varicose veins removed for cosmetic reasons.

There are four basic treatment options available. They are:

1) If the varicose veins are mildly problematic, then your doctor may just advise you to wear elasticized support stockings.

2) Very painful varicose veins may subside after an injection of a sclerosing agent. This substance shrivels up the vein and closes it off.

3) Tying off problematic veins is an effective technique to prevent the blood flowing into them, by diverting the blood flow via the deep vein back to the heart.

4) The final option is to remove the vein completely. The surgeon will make two small incisions at the top and bottom of the vein and then literally strip the vein out.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Varicose Veins

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