- What are varicose veins?
- Is there a difference between varicose veins and spider veins?
- Why do we get varicose veins or spider veins?
- What are some of the side effects of varicose veins?
- What is the best way to avoid varicose veins?
- What are some of the treatments of varicose veins?
- What are some things that can help prevent getting varicose veins?
- What is chronic venous insufficiency?
- Sudden vein problems: Be on the lookout!
Varicose veins are when blood pools in the vein, causing it to expand and become visible beneath the skin. Veins are the blood vessels that bring blood back to the heart, whereas the arteries are the blood vessels that bring blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The arteries pump blood to the body with the force of gravity whereas the veins must bring the blood against gravity back to the body.
Valves found in the veins try and maintain the one-way flow of the blood in the veins and prevent the flow of blood in the veins in the wrong direction as gravity tries to get the blood to flow the over the way. The veins and valves are not as muscular as the arteries and they must work harder to overcome the force of gravity. Sometimes (often with age) the walls of the veins will get weaker and the valves will stop working as well. This makes it more challenging for the veins to keep the blood moving in the direction of the heart.
There is little to no difference between varicose veins and spider veins. They both appear as purple squiggly lines on a person’s skin – mainly their legs. Spider veins are often the early stages of varicose veins.
As the connective tissue in the walls of the veins weaken even more – the pooling blood and resulting congestion can cause other medical problems including swelling (edema) and pain in the lower legs. It can be an extremely uncomfortable condition. Varicose veins are most common in the leg veins.
There are many factors for varicose veins, some include a family history or genetic predisposition that causes weakening of the connective tissue. Another is a lifestyle, where not eating a diet rich with vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C (which helps to create collagen, which veins are made of). Or working certain jobs that include standing or sitting for long periods of time, putting extra pressure on our veins.
Varicose veins result because of the pooling of the blood in an area of the veins. This blood pooling in one area can result in irritation of the vein walls and the surface of the skin on top of them. When this happens, we see the formation of spider veins on the skin (purple, thin squiggly veins). The formation of spider veins can result in venous diseases such as phlebitis which is inflammation of the vein walls.
Phlebitis can affect superficial or deep veins. From there phlebitis can lead to thrombophlebitis which is inflammation of the vein or varicosity leading to the formation of a thrombus or blood clot. These blood clots can either happen in the veins closer to the superficial veins (superficial thrombophlebitis) or the veins that are deeper in the body. When varicose lead to the formations of blood clots this can predispose to a much more dangerous condition of the veins known as a deep vein thrombosis.
Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the deeper veins. It is much larger and can either stay in this area and block the blood vessel it was formed in or it can travel to other blood vessels in the heart, lungs and brain and get stuck in there. This can result in a heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke. It is important to treat varicose veins to prevent these more serious complications as they are life-threatening. In addition, if the varicose veins irritate the skin enough, this can result in skin ulcers or sores because of the varicose underneath.
This makes it important to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole foods. These treatments are much less invasive than surgical options such as sclerotherapy. Self-care can be one of the most effective and non-invasive ways to treat varicose veins.
What are some of the treatments of varicose veins?
These surgeries are not as invasive as many others so often the post-operative recovery time involves less than one day at the hospital. Each of these surgeries works to change the blood flow through these veins in order to prevent the pooling of the blood which is causing the damage in the first place.
There are very few over-the-counter medications that help with varicose veins, however, some natural health products and plants have been shown to have positive effects on helping with varicose veins. Treatment is used to prevent complications including the formation of ulcers and improve endogenous blood flow.
Chronic venous insufficiency is when veins in the legs are not working properly due to either the valves or the veins itself. This prevents blood from the legs being returned to the heart effectively, which causes blood to pool in the veins (resulting in varicose veins). This is a condition that predisposes to the formation of varicose veins.
Some of the same treatments for varicose veins can be used to treat venous insufficiency. The goal with all treatment is to increase the venous circulation and blood flow in the legs to prevent the pooling of blood. This makes exercise as well as compression stockings an important tool in treating chronic venous insufficiency and endovenous blood flow.
Nourishing our bodies properly helps them to function properly, this makes it important to eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to help our bodies function optimally. This includes eating whole foods including:
- fruit and vegetables
- whole grains
- lean meat
- and good fats such as olive oil and avocados
In addition, exercise can help the veins to bring the blood back to the heart. Engaging the muscles around the veins puts pressure and forces the blood back towards the heart. This takes the pressure off the veins themselves so that they don’t have to work as hard and ultimately prevent congestion.
Lifestyle changes can be very helpful in preventing the formation of new varicose veins and preventing the existing ones from getting worse. These changes include:
- No sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Increasing physical activity and movement daily
- Wearing compression stockings puts positive pressure on the veins to help them bring the blood back to the heart.
- Increasing foods that contain collagen or help with the formation of collagen in the diet can help to improve the integrity of the venous walls to prevent damage.
The walls of veins are composed of collagen which is what makes it such an important part of the diet. Foods containing collagen include bone broth, and vitamins that help with the formation of collagen include vitamin C.
There are various treatments of new and pre-existing varicose veins. Depending on the severity of the varicose veins there are multiple options for vascular surgery. These include:
- Phlebectomy which is the removal of varicose veins
- Laser treatment to treat spider veins on the surface of the skin
- Endogenous laser treatment for larger varicose veins - a laser is used to treat the varicose while the doctor uses ultrasound-guided technology to see the vein from the outside
- Ultrasound-guided technology is the best way for doctors to visualize the veins to see if varicose are present and the extent of the damage.
- Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for varicose veins.
These different vascular surgeries can have various post-operative recovery times and side effects depending on the extent of the surgery.
- Decrease the amount of time you stand or sit in one place
- Physical exercise - moving daily including walking, cycling, swimming, running, or playing sports
- Elevate your feet at night by putting them on a pillow to help the blood flow back to your heart more easily
- Ce cautious of constricting pants that can compress the veins
- Do not cross your legs when you are sitting – this compresses the veins and makes it harder for the blood to flow back to the heart
- Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Incorporate other movements into your day with stretching, swinging your feet, running on the spot, or standing on your tiptoes
- Massage your legs with a dry brush or loofah brushing towards the heart to help promote the flow of blood in that direction