When you have varicose veins, summer is not your friend.
I have varicose veins.
I’m always glad to see fall arrive. Not only because I love autumn, but because I hate my legs. Yeah, I know all the psycho-babble about loving my body, but seriously, do my legs have to look like GoogleMaps?
According to WebMD, “An estimated 30% to 60% of adults have varicose veins or spider veins.”
Varicose Veins Defined
There are varicose veins and spider veins. Varicose veins are termed “gnarled, enlarged veins” by Mayo Clinic and spider veins “a common, mild variation of varicose veins – are simply a cosmetic concern.” You can’t always see varicose veins, they’re often deeper under the skin. Spider veins are on the skin’s surface and can appear blue or red in color.
Our amazing bodies are designed to keep oxygen circulating from our lungs to every nook and cranny in our limbs and torso. In order for blood to get back to your heart, your veins rely on your muscules and a system of “cup-like-valves” that open and close. Did you know there are 20 muscles in your legs that work to support your blood flow?
When you have varicose veins, the valves in your legs aren’t working properly. The picture from WebMd below, shows they’re supposed to close and push your blood from “one valve to the next.” When they’re not working right, it causes blood to pool in your veins. This increases pressure on your vascular system, causing the veins to be congested, twisted, and just plain ugly.
See more of your amazing leg anatomy in this BodyMaps from Healthline.
What are the Causes of Varicose Veins?
Up to 80% of varicose veins are hereditary. My lovely mother had some serious varicose veins, but she also gave birth to 11 children. Who wouldn’t have varicose veins after that?
Of the seven women in my family, I’m the lucky one that inherited her veins.
I warn my daughters to take care of themselves so they don’t get them, too. After all, your genes don’t have to determine your destiny, as you may have read in Dr. Mike’s blog on epigenetics. Here are other causes for varicose veins:
- Your gender: Females get more varicose veins than men, but men can still get them, too. Pregnancy increases blood volume, increases your hormone levels, and added weight can also all put strain on your veins. However, most women’s legs are just fine after pregnancy.
- Your occupation: If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day (retail associates, nurses, hair dressers, factory workers, etc.) you may be predisposed to varicose veins.
- Hormonal Influences: These include changes from puberty, menopause and pregnancy as well as, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy.
- Family history of blood clots
- Constipation, abdominal tumors, girdles, clothing, and any condition that increases pressure on your abdomen
Time to throw out the Spanx®, ladies! I’ve never been one for girdles and body-shapers anyway, so I can’t blame my veins on them.
Symptoms: How Do You Know You Have Varicose Veins?
If you see bulging, twisted, and purple veins on your legs, you know you have them. If you don’t, there are signs they could be lurking beneath the surface and it’s important to take action!
Here are symptoms listed in the Mayo Clinic article:
- Itching around one or more of your veins
- Aching and heaviness in your legs
- Cramping muscles, swelling in your ankles and calves, burning and throbbing
- Skin ulcers near your ankles
More severe symptoms include:
- Thromophlebitis (a blood clot within the varicose vein)
- Skin ulcers
Since I had chronic venous stasis, I was at risk for blood clots and I also developed an ulcer on my ankle after I had cut myself. It was an extremely painful experience!
I tried every possible natural way to heal it, but with the blood pooling in my ankles, it wasn’t getting the oxygen it needed to heal. There was no way that ulcer was going to get better without some medical attention.
I had to admit defeat.
It was very frustrating, not only because I like taking care of things myself, but it also cost us a small fortune out of pocket! If you have blood sugar issues, have a genetic predisposition to varicose veins, or a job that might give them to you, please take care of yourself!
I finally broke down and went to a vascular surgeon and had outpatient vein ablation surgery. My recovery was very easy and the ulcer healed in no time. My leg looked so much better after the surgery, too.
It’s too late for me to do much more to fix my legs, but there’s still time for YOU to be proactive!
How to Prevent and Manage Varicose Veins
There are things you can do to prevent varicose veins or keep the ones you have from getting worse. With thanks to HowStuffWorks.com, here are some helpful remedies for varicose veins:
- Exercise: Keep moving to increase circulation and keep your leg muscles strong. You can run, walk, ride a bike, or work in the garden. Just keep moving. If you have to sit for extended periods of time, get up and walk around. Consider an under-the-desk pedal machine to keep your legs moving. Here’s a review of three of them from the Inside Trainer. If you have to stand for long periods, this article from wikiHow.com, recommends you change positions frequently and stretch your legs.
- Lose weight: Shedding pounds will take strain and pressure off your legs to encourage good circulation
- Watch what you eat: Do your best to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. When you’re body is in a state of constant inflammation from eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), you run a much greater risk of getting heart disease, elevated cholesterol, and C-reactive protein. Give your veins a break! This article from NaturalHealthmag.com, on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is very helpful.
- Don’t cross your legs: It might look attractive, but it’s not good for your legs or your back. I really need to work on this one.
- Sit in an ergonomically correct chair: Does your chair (or seat of your car) cut off the circulation to the back of your knees? Having a chair that fits your body well can make a big difference.
- Elevate the foot of your bed at night: A small amount of elevation may help give your leg muscles a real rest and help move the blood back up toward your heart. You should also elevate your legs during the day, if at all possible, for a minimum of 15 minutes.
- Wear compression stockings: They help fight tired legs. Ever since my surgery three years ago, I’ve worn mine every day.
- Take cold showers: In 10 Health Benefits of Cold Showers from GreenMedInfo.com, you’ll learn a cold shower can improve circulation, can increase your metabolism (especially if you need to lose a little weight!), improve lymphatic movement, and can even help alleviate depression!
- Ditch the high heels: Sorry ladies, comfortable, supportive shoes are a must.
- Take supplements: There are supplements available to support your veins, circulation, and fight inflammation.
Here are just a few:
Mesoglycan provides support for your entire cardiovascular system.
It’s a nutrient that not only supports proper blood flow, it can help strengthen veins, too.
Use the power of curcumin to help fight chronic inflammation and may help with the pain of varicose veins.
I take CuraMed every day.
To help tone your skin and minimize the overall look of spider veins, this is a great blend of herbs that support vein health and may reduce itching and swelling.
This formula is a synergistic combination of natural extracts that have been studied to show support for your veins, blood vessels and blood vessel pathologies.
It has also shown to support the reduction of blood clots and the risk of thrombosis, and promote wound healing! I should have been taking this one!
Get Vessel Forte here.
Never take your health for granted. If you know you have a genetic predisposition to something like varicose veins – take action now. You’ll thank yourself later!
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Featured image credit via Flickr.com