Varicose veins are superficial veins in the legs and feet. Veins have valves which control the flow of blood, but in varicose veins these valves stop working properly. This means that blood accumulates in the veins and they become enlarged, lumpy and twisted, forming varicose veins.
Symptoms and Complications of Varicose Veins
While they are not often considered a serious medical condition, varicose veins can be unsightly and may eventually become symptomatic. Possible symptoms of varicose veins include pain, itching, ankle swelling, cramps and discomfort at night, known as restless legs syndrome. Other conditions can develop due to the poor circulation that can arise from varicose veins. These conditions can include skin ulcers, bleeding from the affected veins and clotting of the collected blood inside the varicose veins.
Risk factors of Developing Varicose Veins
There are some risk factors that you can do nothing or very little about. For example, women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins. Increasing age, the menopause and family history makes developing varicose veins more likely. Pregnancy is also a factor – the more pregnancies a woman has, the higher the risk. Some women nay notice varicose veins for the first-time during pregnancy, but these may improve after the baby is born. However, there are some risk factors that you can do something about and therefore, help prevent suffering from varicose veins. These factors are outlined below.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
There are various treatments available for the treatment of varicose veins. Conservative approaches are non-surgical and can include treatment with medicines such as aspirin, combined with the use of compression stockings. A non-surgical intervention is sclerotherapy, which involves the injection of the affected veins to make them shrink. Surgical options include stripping the main superficial vein in the leg or tying off some of the veins involved. The deeper leg veins then take up the slack of returning blood back to the heart.
Preventing Varicose Veins
Losing Weight – Being overweight or obese is a risk factor in developing varicose veins, so losing weight will help reduce the risk. It will also help your overall health.
Regular Exercise - Getting moving can help prevent varicose veins in two main ways. The muscles in your calves help pump blood from the legs, which improves your circulation. Regular exercise will also help manage your weight if you are overweight or obese.
Avoid standing still for long periods – This is often a factor of particular occupations. If you are required to stand for long periods due to work, try to incorporate regular breaks to walk or to sit and elevate your legs. Consider wearing support stockings which can help prevent the development of varicose veins.
Reduce your alcohol consumption – Drinking alcohol for long periods is a known risk factor in developing varicose veins. Excess alcohol can cause weight gain. Too much alcohol can also affect the ability of veins to move blood around the body, mainly due to a process called vasodilatation.
Eat a nutritious diet – A healthy diet will keep you fit and help manage your weight. Incorporating a diet which is high in fibre and low in salt may also help prevent varicose veins developing.
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