Varicose veins are veins that are swollen, twisted, look blue and are close to the surface of the skin. They are unsightly and uncomfortable. Veins bulge, throb and feel heavy. The legs and feet can swell. The skin can itch. Varicose veins may occur in almost any part of your body. They are most often seen in the back of the calf or on the inside of the leg between the groin and the ankle. Hemorrhoids, veins around the anus, can also become varicose.
Causes and risk factors for varicose veins include:
- Hormonal changes at menopause.
- Activities or hobbies that require standing positions for a long time.
- A family history of varicose veins.
- Post vein diseases such as thrombophlebitis (inflammation of a vein before a blood clot forms).
- Medical treatment is not required for most varicose veins unless problems result, such as a deep-vein blood clot or severe bleeding which can be caused by injury to the vein.
- Your doctor can take an X-ray of the vein (venogram) to tell if there are any problems. Surgery can be done to remove enlarged veins. Sclerotherapy can also be done on smaller veins. This procedure uses a chemical injection into the vein that causes it to close up. Other veins then take over its work. Both of these treatments, however, may bring only temporary success and more varicose veins can develop.
Questions to Ask
Has the varicose vein become swollen, red, very tender or warm to the touch?
Are varicose veins accompanied by a rash or sores on the leg or near the ankle and/or do you have circulation problems in your feet?
To relieve and prevent varicose veins:
- Don’t cross your legs when sitting.
- Exercise regularly. Walking is a good choice. It improves leg and vein strength.
- Keep your weight down.
- Avoid standing for prolonged periods of time.
- If your job or hobby requires you to stand, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes.
- Wear elastic support stockings.
- Don’t wear clothing or undergarments that are tight or constrict your waist, groin or legs.
- Eat high-fiber foods like bran cereals, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables to promote regularity. Constipation contributes to varicose veins.
- To prevent swelling, cut your salt intake.
- Exercise your legs. From a sitting position, rotate your feet at the ankles, turning them first clockwise, then counterclockwise, using a circular motion. Next, extend your legs forward and point your toes to the ceiling then to the floor. Then, lift your feet off the floor and gently bend your legs back and forth at the knees.
- Elevate your legs when resting.
Get up and move about every 35 to 45 minutes when traveling by air or even when sitting in an all day conference. Opt for an aisle seat in such situations.