Relieving aches and pains: How to deal with varicose veins

Nov 25, 2019
Varicose veins can be painful, but there are ways to relieve the symptoms. Source: Getty

Veins play a critical role in the circulatory system by transporting blood to the heart and other organs. But as you age the tiny valves in the veins can become damaged or stop working altogether, causing the blood to pool and stretch the veins

This condition is known as varicose veins, and it affects thousands of people across the world. According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, 35 per cent of people in the US are affected by the condition. While the exact cause of varicose veins is unknown, it’s generally more common in those who are overweight, pregnant, are sedentary, or have previously suffered from deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot in the vein.

Varicose veins can appear anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the feet and legs. While their bulging appearance and blueish colour make them noticeable, they can however cause a great amount of pain for the person suffering.

The most common symptoms include swelling, eczema, leg cramps and the feeling of heaviness in the legs. In the most severe cases, varicose veins can limit your ability to carry out everyday activities, with symptoms generally worsening when you sit or stand for long periods.

For some the condition can result in the development of ulcers, clotting or bleeding from the affected vein. In these cases, surgery is generally required, but if the condition isn’t severe, symptoms can be managed  by using a few simple measures.

Regular physical activity

Sticking to a regular exercise regime will get the muscles moving and help the veins to push blood back to the heart. A study carried out by the National University of Ireland Galway physical activity reduced swelling in the legs of participants with varicose veins. It also helped to compress dilated veins, which may appear as clusters of blue or purple veins.

Carrying any extra weight will also make it harder on the veins to carry blood throughout the body, so maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle it will help to prevent new varicose veins from forming.

Avoid sitting or standing for long periods

Sitting or standing for long periods will lead to poor circulation in the legs, making it harder on the veins to move blood around the body. For some, it can cause swelling in the ankles and calves, resulting in further pain.

If you’re required to sit for hours at a time, take a break every 30 minutes and walk around. This will help your veins to pump the blood back up to your heart.

Wear compression stockings

Wearing compression stockings can help improve circulation in your legs and reduce swelling. They work by providing consistent pressure to the legs which assists veins in moving blood up to the heart instead of pooling around the ankles and feet.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgerythose suffering from varicose veins reported a reduction in pain or aching after wearing the stockings for just one week.

Elevate your feet

Instead of letting your feet hang down while sitting, rest them on a stool above the level of your heart. This will allow the blood in your legs to flow back to your heart instead of pooling around your feet.

John Hopkins Medicine recommends elevating the feet three or four times a day for around 15 minutes. However, if this isn’t possible, flexing or bending your legs every now and then while sitting will help keep the blood circulating and reduce any swelling of the legs.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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Do you suffer from varicose veins? What do you find helps to relieve the symptoms?

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