When we are young our skin is almost immaculate. Ironically, we are far too young to appreciate this at the time, and as our self awareness improves, our skin declines. One of the more common things that can begin to show up are varicose veins. You might not be familiar with the term, but you almost certainly know them by sight. Varicose veins are when the blood vessels just underneath the surface of your skin become swollen and twisted. This means that unlike regular veins, they stand out in little streaks of red or purple, most commonly on your legs or feet.
Why might a vein become varicose? When your vein is healthy, it has a valve which makes sure that the blood flows one way through your body back towards your heart. It has to work against gravity so the valve closes to make sure the blood doesn’t all fall back on itself. If that valve loses strength, it means that blood begins to pool in the vein. Imagine what that might do to a vein which is designed to rapidly circulate blood. It begins to stretch and twist on itself. That blood then begins to leak into the capillaries (the smaller veins) which give that appearance of the spider web on your skin.
Naturally, many people find these to be embarrassing and will avoid wearing clothes that showcase the parts of their legs that have varicose veins. For others, it can be a painful affliction. It might involve:
- Leg pain, either throbbing, aching or burning
- A rash
- Swelling around the ankles
- Heavy legs
- The skin becoming dark over the ankles
At this stage, it isn’t clear why some people would suffer from varicose veins and other people would get off scot free. It is one of many lotteries in life. There are common traits however. If you are older, have a family history, stand up a lot, are overweight, or have had a leg injury in the past (including deep vein thrombosis), then you are more at risk of developing varicose veins.
There are a number of treatments for varicose veins. Some are surgical, designed to help you after the fact, and others are less invasive which might halt the process or avoid the whole situation altogether.
- Sclerotherapy involves the injection of chemicals to block the veins
- Ablation therapy uses heat to seal the veins
- You can also have surgery to remove the afflicted veins using small punctures or cuts
Not everyone is keen on the surgical option. There are a number of things you can do before this to minimise your risk.
- Avoid standing up for long periods of time. I know, this is counterintuitive to the whole ‘sitting is the new cancer / standing desk’ movement. As is the case with most things in life, a balance is best practice.
- Look after your weight. I’ve written about this pretty extensively, and there are myriad ways that you can go about this (I’ve included a few quick hacks at the end of this article).Ultimately, being overweight puts more pressure on your veins and means you are more likely to have an issue with a valve.
- Avoid high heels where possible. It puts more pressure on your legs.
- Put your legs up when resting. This is not a hard sell. Recline somewhere and have a rest? Yes, thanks!
- Don’t cross your legs when you sit down. This interrupts the flow of blood through your veins and increases your chance of it pooling somewhere it shouldn’t.
There are also treatments you can take to relieve the symptoms of varicose veins when they are in their infancy. Caruso’s Veins Clear is a fairly astute choice in this regard. It contains Ruscus aculeatus (more commonly known as Butcher’s Broom) which has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years to help with circulation. Grape seed and Vitamin C contain antioxidants that manage hypertension which will go on to cause varicose veins. Helpfully, it also inhibits the enzymes that destroy collagen under your skin which causes premature ageing. It also contains an ingredient called Hesperidin which helps your blood vessels function properly, while also reducing inflammation. Caruso’s Veins Clear is a popular choice among people who value a more natural approach to health and wellbeing. It is scientifically supported, and so if you are in one or more of those risky categories, but haven’t yet noticed varicose veins emerging, you can start on the front foot with a product like Caruso’s or something similar.
PS: Here are the few quick hacks to losing weight mentioned above.
- Don’t skip breakfast. It seems intuitive that eating less good would help you lose weight, but you will actually end up hungrier throughout the day and will probably end up snacking on worse food later on. Eat regular (healthy) meals, don’t starve yourself.
- Increase the fruit and veg count. They are super low in kilojoules and fat, while being high in fibre. These three attributes make fruit and veg a silver bullet for weight loss.
- Make sure you drink regularly. Your mum’s advice of ‘have a drink of water’ when you complained about hunger turned out to be scientifically solid. It fills you up so that you less inclined to overeat.
- Get up! The standing desk is a good start, but if you just stand still, you are increasing your risk of developing varicose veins. Instead, find a balance of resting, standing, and exercising. The current wisdom prescribes 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes if it is vigorous. It is usually best to space these out, rather than trying to check that box in one fell swoop.
- Use a smaller plate. You can actually trick your mind into thinking you’ve eaten more than you have. Consider how a meal looks if it is served up on a large plate! It’s tiny! But on a small plate it will look sizable. Trust me, it makes a difference.