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What are varicose veins? Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood back to your heart. Varicose veins are abnormal veins that develop in the soft tissue under the skin and are characterized by a bulging, knotted, and twisted appearance. They can occur in almost any part of the body but are most common in the legs, particularly the back of the knee, the back of the calf, and on the inner leg and thigh between the groin and the ankle.
What are the causes of varicose veins? There are many factors that contribute to the development of this problem.
Gender: Females are four times more likely than males to develop varicose veins.
Age: The chance of developing varicose veins increases with age and reaches approximately 50% in those who are 50 years old or older.
Genetics: Those who have parents with varicose veins are more likely to develop them as well.
Occupation/Lifestyle: Those with jobs or hobbies which require prolonged sitting or prolonged standing have an increased risk.
Pregnancy: Varicose veins occur during pregnancy due to two factors.
The first is that hormone changes during pregnancy affect the blood vessel walls by causing them to relax, which can lead to the blood pooling and the veins becoming distended. Secondly, as the uterus enlarges during pregnancy it can cause pressure on and obstruction of pelvic veins. Usually varicose veins that are related to pregnancy improve once the pregnancy ends, but sometimes they become a chronic problem.
Obesity: Can cause increased intra-abdominal pressure which can affect blood flow.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
Varicose veins are often primarily a cosmetic problem and cause few symptoms. If symptoms are present they usually include:
Leg and ankle swelling.
Legs feel tired, heavy, aching/throbbing, burning, and/or painful.
Cramping of calf muscles, particularly at night.
Symptoms often worsen during the menstrual cycle.
In more severe cases varicose veins may be associated with the development of:
Phlebitis: inflamed, painful veins.
Thrombosis: a clot in the vein.
Ulcers: from inadequate oxygen and swelling in the soft tissue under the skin.
Severe bleeding: if a varicose vein is injured.
How are varicose veins treated? There are numerous ways to help relieve and prevent varicose veins.
Elevate your legs whenever possible; it is best if your feet are positioned higher than the level of your heart.
Exercise daily, anything that helps keep your calf muscles in motion such as walking, riding a bicycle, or swimming.
Don’t cross your legs when sitting. If you have to stand for long periods be sure to shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes.
If you have to sit for prolonged periods flex and rotate your ankles every 10 minutes, and get up and move around every 35 to 45 minutes.
Avoid high heels; they inhibit the muscular movement of your legs that helps pump blood back to the heart.
Wear elastic support stockings.
Make sure you are getting enough vitamin E and C; they have been found helpful in reducing the symptoms of varicose veins.
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Horsechestnut extract has been shown in studies to help relieve the common symptoms of varicose veins.
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