It’s summer, and you’d love to go bare-legged. If unsightly varicose veins are keeping you out of shorts or skirts, there are natural and non-invasive treatments available to make those bulgy, ugly veins vanish.
Although varicose veins are primarily a cosmetic issue, they can occasionally form life-threatening blood clots. See your doctor immediately if the skin around the varicose veins ulcerates or if you experience pain in the veins.
Varicose veins are basically leaky veins in your body’s circulatory plumbing system. While they usually occur in the legs, they can appear on other parts of the body. Veins carry blood to your heart for recirculation. Your veins contain valves, which open as blood heads to the heart and close so that blood can’t flow back. Varicose veins occur when those valves weaken, causing blood to pool in the veins and enlarge them.
An anti-inflammatory diet helps increase blood flow and reduces inflammation that causes leaky veins. Eat lots of salad greens and fresh herbs such as basil and parsley, which are natural diuretics. Blood pooling also can result from magnesium deficiency, so you’ll want to make bananas, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, avocados and other magnesium-rich foods part of your daily diet.
Avoid salt as much as possible so that your legs — and veins — don’t swell from water retention.
Other items to remove from your diet include alcohol, sugar, caffeine, trans fats and processed foods in general. Consume oatmeal, fruits and other foods that keep you regular. Constipation can make varicose veins worse from the straining during bowel movements. Vitamins C and E are recommended supplements. Both have anti-inflammatory properties, and vitamin E is a natural blood thinner.
Essential oils that increase circulation can help your varicose veins and diminish their appearance. Use them in the bath or massage your legs for best results. When massaging, always do so in an upward motion, from the legs toward the heart. Elevate your legs for a while post-massage.
Essential oils with circulatory benefits include:
Certain herbs help prevent or lessen chronic venous insufficiency. This condition causes issues with the leg veins that return blood to your heart and may cause or exacerbate varicose veins. Recommended herbs include:
- Bilberry – choose either an extract or drink a tea made from this herb
- Butcher’s broom – this herb benefits the circulatory system, tightening the veins and relieving fluid retention
- Grape seed – contains bioflavonoids that may reduce vein leakage
- Horse chestnut – while this herb aids chronic venous insufficiency, do not take it if you suffer from kidney or liver disease
- Sweet clover – a diuretic, sweet clover also contains the blood thinner coumarin, which helps poor blood circulation. It has anti-inflammatory properties
Some herbs may interact with blood pressure and other medications, so always ask your doctor if particular herbal therapy is right for you.
Compression stockings probably aren’t your idea of stylish summer fashion, but they help reduce varicose veins. They’re also available in all sorts of colors and patterns, so you can wear a summer dress and disguise your enlarged veins.
There are several minimally invasive surgical techniques to get rid of varicose veins, but laser surgery is the only non-invasive option. It works best on spider veins and smaller varicose veins. The success rate is close to that of vein stripping and other surgical procedures, and it’s far easier with few, if any, side effects.
Preventing varicose veins
Varicose veins aren’t always preventable. Some people have a hereditary predisposition to their development, and they are common in pregnant women. Like gray hair, varicose veins often accompany aging. Those over age 50 have a 50 percent chance of eventually experiencing these knotty veins, with women at higher risk than men. Still, there are ways you can reduce the likelihood of gnarly veins appearing on your legs. These include:
- Maintaining a proper weight. Overweight people are likely to have varicose veins
- Avoiding high heels. The unnatural position can prevent veins in the feet and calf from pumping correctly
- Regular exercise
- Elevating your legs
- Wearing loose clothing
- Getting up regularly if you work at a desk or are otherwise sedentary
- Using sunscreen on your legs. Sunscreen can prevent spider vein formation
Don’t let varicose veins ruin your summer. It’s important to get outside, socialize and have fun, so if you’re self-conscious about your legs opt for long, cool dresses or wear linen pants.