Compression stockings aren’t a cure for varicose veins but can sometimes improve their appearance. More importantly, by supporting the leg, they ease discomfort and pain, help prevent any build-up of fluid, and encourage the blood to flow towards the heart. Before trying compression stockings, you should have your blood circulation system tested in a Doppler investigation.
One of the most common medical procedures aimed at getting rid of varicose veins, sclerotherapy involves injecting varicose veins with a substance that makes them shrink. A largely pain-free procedure, it also usually provides good results. Treated veins fade away but the procedure cannot influence whether or not new varicose veins form.
Useful for removing small varicose veins near the skin surface, the procedure involves making such small incisions that stitches are not required. Most people describe the procedure as pain-free and results are good. The extracted veins do not regrow although new varicose veins may form in the same general area.
Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA)
Performed under local anesthesia, this medical procedure treats varicose veins using laser energy. Guided by ultrasound, a thin catheter is inserted into the problem vein. Laser energy then closes and collapses the vein, and the body is able to redirect blood flow through different vessels.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
Another minimally invasive procedure, RFA uses radio frequency energy to seal off an affected vein. A catheter delivers the radio frequency energy, which works by heating the walls of the vein until they collapse and are impassable to blood flow. Recovery time from the procedure is relatively short.
High ligation and vein stripping
If you’re not a suitable candidate for sclerotherapy or ablation treatments, you may be offered high ligation and vein stripping. Carried out under general anaesthetic, the procedure involves two small incisions: one near the groin and one further down the leg. The incisions are used to access the affected vein, tie it off and then remove it. Average recovery time is three weeks.
Transilluminated powered phlebectomy
This is a relatively new procedure that involves making one or two incisions in the leg. The surgeon then places an endoscopic transilluminator – a type of light – beneath the skin to illuminate the veins that need removing. Those veins are then cut and extracted via the incisions using a surgical suction tool.
Cyanoacrylate glue occlusion
Another new treatment, this one isn’t necessarily widely available yet. If it is offered to you, it involves the injection of a special glue into the varicose veins. This glue seals the veins, ensuring that they can no longer fill with blood. Although the veins aren’t actually removed, their appearance is usually significantly improved.
Disguise them with clothing
At their worst, varicose veins can be disfiguring. Even if they’re not, it’s easy to feel self-conscious about them. However, not everyone wants surgical treatment or, indeed, is a suitable candidate. If you’re not, or if you prefer to try less invasive methods, you might decide to ensure that your clothes cover the veins.
Watch and wait
Unfortunately, it’s rare for varicose veins to disappear on their own. Indeed, if left untreated, larger varicose veins or those very close to the surface of the skin can cause further problems. These can include prolonged bleeding if a vein is cut, thrombophlebitis (swelling of the veins in the leg) and even deep vein thrombosis. As a result, “watch and wait” isn’t a recommended approach.
Exercise can’t cure varicose veins but it can help relieve the associated discomfort. By improving your circulation and toning your muscles, exercise also reduces the chance of developing more varicose veins. Any exercise is beneficial but it’s important to start slowly at first. Walking, swimming, yoga and cycling can all help.
Raise your legs
Elevating the legs helps relieve varicose vein symptoms by improving the circulation – and better circulation eases any inflammation or discomfort caused by blood pooling in the veins. For best results, elevate your legs above your heart for around 15 minutes, and do this three or four times per day.
Cucumber juice and witch hazel
Combining these two natural ingredients may help ease the inflammation in the legs of someone suffering with varicose veins. Apply the solution directly onto the veins using cotton wool or a soft, clean cloth. It isn’t a cure, but easing inflammation can help prevent existing varicose veins from worsening.
The wrong diet can make varicose veins more likely – and can worsen the appearance of existing ones. By promoting water retention, sodium (salt) is particularly bad news. On the other hand, potassium has the opposite effect. Salmon, tuna, leafy green vegetables, almonds, lentils, and potatoes are all good sources of potassium.
Yarrow essential oil
Although not medically-proven, yarrow is considered helpful in promoting a healthy circulatory system. Good blood flow means that varicose veins are less likely to form or, if they’re already present, are less likely to worsen. If you decide to try yarrow, rub the essential oil into the skin over the varicose vein.
Although treating your constipation won’t cure existing varicose veins, it might stop you developing new ones. It might also help you avoid exacerbating existing varicose veins. This is because constipation and, specifically, straining to pass feces, is associated with a greater risk of developing varicose veins.
If you’re over a healthy weight for your height, dieting has several potential benefits for your health. Although it’s important to note that weight loss will not make varicose veins disappear – and, indeed, can even worsen their appearance, at least temporarily – it can reduce the chance of more developing.
Aloe vera is well known for its health benefits. These include acting as an anti-irritant – an attribute that’s of significant potential help to someone suffering with itchy varicose veins. What’s more, as well as hopefully dealing with the itching, massaging aloe vera gel into the skin may improve circulation and reduce any swelling.
Foods rich in flavonoids
Flavonoids occur naturally in many plants, including spinach, broccoli, onions, peppers, blueberries, apples, and cherries. Luckily, tea, chocolate, and wine are also good sources! While the health benefits of flavonoids are not yet fully understood, they are known to improve blood circulation. This is of direct benefit to anyone suffering with varicose veins.
Grape seed extract
With its powerful antioxidant activity, grape seed extract improves blood circulation and also helps strengthen blood vessel walls. By improving venous system efficiency, grape seed extract can help ease existing varicose veins and make the formation of new ones less likely. Grape seed extract is taken as a supplement but, as it isn’t suitable for everyone, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting.
There’s no shortage of topical creams aimed at treating varicose veins. However, varicose veins are primarily caused by venous system inefficiency. This means that topical applications of any substance cannot cure them. However, depending on what’s in a particular cream, it can have a significantly soothing effect.
Avoid restrictive clothing
Given that compression stockings are often recommended for varicose veins, it seem’s ironic to suggest that you approach restrictive clothing with caution if you want to avoid developing these veins. However, one school of thought suggests that tight shapewear is sometimes tight enough to restrict blood flow and encourage the blood pooling that may result in varicose veins.
Avoid sun exposure
The sun doesn’t cause varicose veins. However, excessive exposure to sunlight can worsen the appearance of existing problem veins, and so it may make sense to avoid exposing your skin to the sun. As it’s the heat from the sun, not the UV rays, that causes the issue, sun cream won’t help. Instead, you’ll need to cover the skin and keep it cool.
Obviously this one is somewhat tongue-in-cheek and won’t apply to most people with varicose veins. If you’re currently pregnant and have developed varicose veins during your pregnancy, however, don’t despair: there’s an excellent chance that the troublesome veins will get better once you’ve given birth.
Lavender essential oil
Perhaps you associate lavender with closets or sleep remedies. However, as an essential oil, some people believe lavender can also soothe troublesome varicose veins. This is because, as well as having a calming effect, it’s also thought to have a role in reducing inflammation and pain.
Cut back on salt
Although one accepted medical treatment for varicose veins – sclerotherapy – involves injecting them with a saline (salt) solution, salt is generally considered unhelpful for varicose veins. This is down to the fact that salt raises blood pressure and may cause swelling inside the veins. Consequently, cutting back on salt reduces the risk of exacerbating existing problem veins.
Again, not a cure for varicose veins, boosting the fiber in your diet may help prevent existing varicose veins from becoming worse and may also guard against the formation of new ones. This is because fiber is a key part of a healthy digestive system – and a healthy digestive system is less likely to end with constipation and the straining that may cause varicose veins.
Sea pine essential oil
Limited research suggests that oil extracted from the bark of the sea pine can have a positive effect on edema (swelling) related to chronic venous insufficiency. This is a condition that often precedes the development of varicose veins. Consequently, if sea pine essential oil has a potentially protective effect, you may wish to consider its use.
Avoid crossing your legs
If your mother always cautioned you against crossing your legs, she was probably right – at least as far as ensuring you don’t worsen existing varicose veins is concerned. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that crossing them makes developing varicose veins more likely in the first place.
Walk around the block
When it comes to varicose veins, scientific evidence suggests that standing still for long periods of time is potentially as problematic as sitting still. While it’s not always possible to avoid standing (or sitting) for extended periods, try to break it up with short periods of activity, such as a walk around the block.
Varicose veins aren’t only unsightly. They can also cause very real physical symptoms, including itching, swelling, and inflammation. Addressing these symptoms can make you feel considerably better – and utilizing cold compresses is a great option. Do not be tempted to try hot compresses. These will widen the affected veins and increase both blood flow and your discomfort.
Don’t sit for too long
Good circulation is a key part of avoiding varicose veins. It also has an important part to play in reducing the impact of existing problem veins. Sitting still for too long has several potential health implications. One of these is more sluggish circulation, which can increase the chances of suffering from varicose veins.
Keep a healthy weight
Keeping to a healthy weight means less pressure on your veins. This not only reduces your chances of developing varicose veins, it can also ease the appearance and symptoms of any existing ones. However, weight cannot influence whether or not you have chronic venous insufficiency, which is strongly associated with varicose veins.
Reduce alcohol intake
Yet another reason to keep your alcohol intake in check is its potential impact on varicose veins. While it’s true that alcohol doesn’t directly cause these veins to develop, it can prompt circulatory problems. These, in turn, may make venous issues – including varicose veins – more likely.
Lower your blood pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can play a part in the development of varicose veins. Furthermore, varicose veins can result in a condition called venous hypertension, where the pressure inside veins in the leg increases. Lowering your blood pressure won’t get rid of existing varicose veins but will help you lead a healthier lifestyle, which can reduce your chances of developing these problem veins.
Another one that won’t apply to the vast majority of people, nonetheless it’s worth keeping up with all your regular health checks. And make sure you get any specific concerns checked out too. Very occasionally, tumor growth can cause the enlargement of varicose veins – but it’s vanishingly unlikely that varicose veins would be your first symptom.
Stay well hydrated
Making sure you’re well hydrated – and ideally with water rather than juices, soda or caffeine-based drinks – is essential for many reasons. However, good hydration can also help guard against varicose veins and reduce the appearance of existing ones. Good hydration can also help reduce any pain associated with varicose veins.
There’s rarely a quick fix for varicose veins. As a result, if their appearance concerns you, you might want to consider cosmetic measures. Leg makeup is one possibility, albeit a messy one, but self-tanning lotions are probably preferable and longer-lasting. Professional application may give the best results.
Apple cider vinegar
Try applying apple cider vinegar topically and massaging it into affected areas. (Note, however, that this isn’t a good idea if you have any open wounds.) As an alternative, some people recommend adding two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water, and drinking it. Whichever you choose, try doing it twice a day.
Epsom salt baths
A warm bath with Epsom salts may help improve circulation in the whole body, including the legs. In turn, this may ease the inflammation, swelling and discomfort that’s so common with varicose veins. Dissolve two cups of Epsom salts into your warm bath and soak the affected limbs for around 20 minutes daily.