Varicose Veins: Causes And Best Treatments

Are you dreading the day your legs will start looking like your mom's- veins, swollen and enlarged, protruding, lumpy, blue in color, and painful? Although varicose veins are normally seen as a cosmetic concern, being embarrassing, they may also become a health concern, being an indication of circulatory problems (for instance, leading to wounds, non-healing ulcers, as well as blood clots). Varicose veins may become extremely uncomfortable. Therefore, it is worth discovering the underlying causes of varicose veins, not only to help prevent them but also to effectively treat them so that you can look better and feel better about yourself.

There are multiple types of varicose veins: from spider veins that may be found all over the body, telangiectasias found on the face, and hemorrhoids, which are also a form of varicose veins. This article will focus on the veins found on the legs.

What Are The Causes Of Varicose Veins?

Veins, unlike arteries - which bring nutrients and oxygenated blood to the various parts of the body - are the channels through which deoxygenated blood is returned back to the heart. Veins have one-way valves that are there to stop blood from flowing backward. However, when these valves become damaged, the condition referred to as varicosity begins.

If valves don't work as they should, it becomes difficult to return the blood. Veins become enlarged and the blood pressure in the veins increases. Varicose veins then appear. Although it should also be mentioned that this does not only occur superficially; varicose veins may also occur at a deeper level, not as visible, but still painful.

The major risk factor for developing this problem is having a genetic predisposition for the condition, as well as a history of deep-vein thrombosis. If you have relatives with this condition, there is a 70 to 80% chance that you will also develop the condition.

Females (especially those above the age of 50) are four times more likely to develop varicose veins than men. However, there are other behavioral factors which can lead to the valves failing.

Some of these factors are: standing or sitting for long periods; being overweight or obese; an inactive lifestyle, lacking in exercise; wearing clothing too tight at the waist or the upper thighs; wearing high heels; and smoking.

Besides the genetic and behavioral factors that are leading causes of this condition, pregnancy and menopause are other examples.

Either way, it is mostly the legs that become affected, as they are the furthest from the heart. Veins start to enlarge, with blood pooling in these veins. Gravity makes it difficult for the blood to travel back up.

Bottom Line:
Varicose veins may be unsightly and painful. They are partly caused by factors that cannot be avoided, such as genetics. However, addressing certain lifestyle factors can have an impact as well. Understanding the causes is important: avoiding these causes may also mean avoiding damage to the veins.

How Do You Treat Varicose Veins?

Treatment for varicose veins can range from the non-invasive approaches of changing your lifestyle to a more aggressive approach that involves surgery. However, the approach will depend on the extent of the damage.

Woman Holding Dumbbells

Making Lifestyle Changes

If the problem is not that extensive, or painful, or if you want to delay the progression, there are some easy lifestyle changes you can make. For instance:

  • Remain at your ideal body weight. This may mean losing excess weight in order to take pressure off of your legs.
  • Improve your blood circulation by exercising.
  • Wear special compression stockings or socks. These socks work by placing pressure on the veins, thereby forcing the blood to flow better to the heart. They help to cut down the swelling.
  • Raise your feet for at least 10 to 15 minutes daily. Have your feet elevated when resting, but also try to avoid standing for long periods.
  • Look after your vascular health by taking quality dietary supplements that contain antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant compounds. Elements such as witch hazel, horse chestnut, hesperidin and diosmin, rutin, butcher's broom, and cayenne pepper, have been found to be effective in boosting blood circulation for best vascular health, decreasing inflammation and swelling, as well as reducing itching and pain.
  • Alternatively, you can make use of self-tanners or body-suitable concealers to help to neutralize the discoloration.

Undergoing Invasive Treatments

Your vein specialist (phlebotomist) or a dermatologist will be able to suggest the best treatment for your condition. There are also surgical procedures that may be conducted under anesthesia; as well as non-surgical procedures to treat varicose veins. Some of these treatments include:

  • Sclerotherapy. This is a treatment in which a chemical irritant is injected into the vein. The vein then scars from the inside out, thus blocking the vein and causing it to die.
  • Vein stripping is a more aggressive treatment in which the surgeon makes incisions below the knee, then ties the vein and removes it. This procedure is conducted under anesthesia.
  • Microphlebectomy is similar to vein stripping but is used when the varicose veins are not too severe. Normally this procedure is conducted under local anesthetic on an outpatient basis.
  • Laser venous ablation is a modern treatment. With this treatment, a catheter (thin and flexible tube) is inserted into the vein. The laser then heats the tube, which destroys the problematic vein by sealing it off. This vein will then dissolve over time.
Bottom Line:
The treatment of varicose veins can range from covering them up with make-up to more aggressive treatments such as laser treatment to remove the vein. However, the treatment approach will depend on the extent of the damage to the vein. One of these approaches is to make use of dietary supplements to improve the condition; however, this is mostly to prevent veins from becoming varicose. Using a cream with the supplement helps to nourish the skin, as well as smooth the skin tone, fading the appearance of spider veins and varicose veins.

Can Varicose Veins Return After Treatment?

Patient Having Varicose Veins Ultrasound

Even though the new treatments are effective in dealing with problematic veins, there is no cure for weak vein valves. Doctors can make use of ultrasound to check whether the valves are leaking, however, ongoing treatment will be needed to keep the condition under control. Varicose veins can return. Preventative measures can delay the return of such veins.

Our Ultimate Take Home Message

The bottom line is that varicose veins are mostly hereditary, however, by making some lifestyle changes you can prevent or delay the development of this problem. Once varicose veins do develop there are treatments available. Having varicose veins may be an indication of a more serious problem, i.e. poor circulation. With the right diet, exercise, effective supplements and creams, you can keep your veins healthy while still wearing those summer dresses, and showing off your legs with confidence.

Researched and written by experts, brought to you by our team at Mommy Authority.

Susannah is a nutritionist, who graduated from King's College, London. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jack, they took the brave move a few years ago to relocate to Europe (France) where they run an organic farm together. Susannah still has her own small private practice where she provides nutritional advice and guidance. She loves what she does and it shows in her writing. We are very happy to have her contributions and expertise on our site. She loves all things different and when she isn't out on the farm or in her clinic, she can be found wine tasting in the many wonderful wineries that can be found in the region!