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Varicose veins: how you can help yourself

Ordinary support tights are probably a waste of money except during pregnancy. If you think that you are developing varicose veins, see your doctor. If varicose veins run in your family, there is not very much you can do to prevent them.

  • If you are overweight, try to lose a few kilos.
  • Take regular walks. Walking is the best exercise to improve the flow of blood in the legs, but avoid exercises that use weights and high-impact exercises, such as jogging.
  • Avoid long periods of standing. If you have to stand in one position for longer than a few minutes, do some ankle movements, such as standing on tiptoe to encourage your calf muscles to pump blood out of your leg veins.
  • Put your feet up whenever you are sitting around at home. This will help the veins to empty and reduce swelling of the feet. Try not to cross your legs or to sit for long periods with your legs bent. On long train or plane journeys, walk around from time to time; and on long car or coach journeys take advantage of any stops to get out and walk for a few minutes.
  • Avoid falling asleep in a chair. If you are tired, go to bed.
  • Extract of horse chestnut (conker juice) is very popular in Germany as a remedy for varicose veins. The active ingredient, aescin, is said to strengthen blood vessels. In fact, as varicose veins are a mechanical problem due to leaky valves in the veins, there is no way that horse-chestnut extract could make them close properly. However, some people find that it helps to relieve aching, so it might be worth a try if that is your main problem. It can cause nausea in some people. Some horse-chestnut preparations also contain a plant extract called Butcher's Broom, which should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.
  • Do not wear garters or tight hold-up stockings.
  • Wear lace-up shoes, which give better support and allow your leg muscles to move more naturally.
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables to avoid constipation. Some people think that onions, berries and grapes are especially helpful for varicose veins, but there is no scientific evidence for this.
  • If you have varicose veins, take extra care of the skin on your legs, because the blood stagnates and the circulation to the skin is poor. The skin can become deprived of oxygen and any damage will take longer to heal. Use a moisturizing lotion, do not scratch any itchy areas, try to avoid knocks and do not toast your legs in front of a fire.

When to ask for treatment

Do not feel you are wasting your doctor's time if you request treatment for veins that are not too bad. The longer you have them, the worse they get, so surgeons prefer to deal with early cases, because they are easier and the results are better. Colour changes in the skin caused by varicose veins never completely reverse after surgery.

It used to be said that women who develop varicose veins after pregnancy should not be treated if they intend to have more children. Most surgeons now believe it is best to treat after the first baby, rather than wait until the woman's family is complete.

Before providing treatment, a specialist will do an ultrasound (Doppler) scan to check the state of your veins.
 

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Thursday, April 19th 2018

 


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Comments on this article

Posted by Optional on 01/02/2017 at 05:19

they are very painful and itch so bad what else can I do for them had procedure done all ready.

Posted by Optional on 22/06/2012 at 10:39

noted with many thanks

Posted by Aki on 08/05/2012 at 06:35

Hi I have varicose vein in my left leg (calf)since past one year and although it does not pain but it still looks ugly. I dont know how i got this cause its not hereditary , im not over weight, i dont really have to stand for long hours and im obviously not pregnant. God knows why i have this problem and now that it looks weird i have decided to get a scan done and lets see wat treatment ill go for...surgery is definitely not an option as of now.

Posted by pooja madhub on 11/02/2012 at 07:17

I'm suffering from varicose vein since 4 year i don't know where to go fill afraid if i got more complication after my operation i want to know some name of doctor living in Mauritius

Posted by ruthie on 05/12/2011 at 11:36

I have varicose veins which itch. Is there a cream that I can use to calm it all down. I have heard of extract of horse chestnut or otherwise known as conker juice, Any advise would be really appreciated. Many thanks R

Posted by Natallia Vergun on 10/11/2011 at 04:07

My mum has got varicose veins. She is constantly feeling a very strong itch in her varicose veins. What cream would you suggest to use to avoid this itch? Are there any other home remedie for that?

Posted by raji on 20/10/2009 at 12:51

I have a block in varicose vain. your information given in this blog is very informative. thanks.

Posted by Help needed on 09/02/2009 at 03:44

I have a problem where I have bad circulation in my legs! they tend to turn blue/purple I have tried all the top tips but nothing ever works and now im seeing tiny broken thread vain appear loads around my ankle, please help as im goin on holiday in August!

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Fascinating facts

Varicose simply means swollen

Varicose veins are the price we pay for our upright posture; if we still walked on all fours, we probably wouldn't have them

One person in five has varicose veins or is likely to get them

Varicose veins usually develop slowly over 10-20 years

Recent research has found that varicose veins are more common in men than in women

60 000 people in England have hospital treatment for varicose veins every year

Varicose veins are more common in Wales than anywhere else in the world

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