Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen veins that develop when the small valves inside our veins start to malfunction. Ordinarily these valves prevent blood from flowing backwards and keep it flowing in a single direction : towards the heart. If the valves malfunction, the blood flows backwards, causing it collect in the vein and cause them to become enlarged and swollen.
Varicose veins are a very common condition, affecting up to three in 10 adults. Usually, women tend to be more affected than men.
Any vein in the body can become varicose, but they most commonly develop in the legs and feet, particularly in the calves. This is because standing and walking puts extra pressure on the veins in the lower body.
Although varicose veins are unpleasant to look at, most of the times they do not pose any significant health problems. In a small number of people though, they can cause significant pain and occasionally lead to leg ulcers, discoloration and difficulty in mobility.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
In addition to discoloration and bulging of the veins, varicose veins can also present with:
swollen feet and ankles
uncomfortable sensation in legs and feet
frequent muscle cramps
itching over the veins
Symptoms are usually worse in hot weather, and after standing for prolonged periods of time. Although the commonest place for development of varicose veins is the back of legs, some other uncomfortable places to get the veins may include the rectum, vagina, womb and esophagus.
MANAGING VARICOSE VEINS BY YOURSELF
Some measures that you can take at home to manage your varicose veins without causing flare-ups include:
Exercise. Walking is a great way to encourage blood circulation in your legs. Your doctor can recommend an appropriate activity level for you.
Watch your weight and diet. Shedding excess pounds takes unnecessary pressure off your veins. Follow a low-salt diet to prevent swelling caused from water retention.
Elevate your legs. To improve the circulation in your legs, take several short breaks daily to elevate your legs above the level of your heart.
Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Make a point of changing your position frequently to encourage blood flow.
Don’t sit with your legs crossed. Some doctors believe this position can increase circulation problems.
There’s no way to completely prevent varicose veins. But improving your circulation and muscle tone can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. The same measures you can take to treat the discomfort from varicose veins at home can help prevent varicose veins.