How to Get Rid of Varicose Veins
Learn what varicose veins really are and how you can treat varicose veins without the need for surgery.
Getting rid of varicose veins can be as simple and easy as trying elevation, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, compression stockings, exercise, and reviewing your current medications. However, you don’t have to do anything: they are a cosmetic issue for the most part. Nonetheless, if you’re feeling some discomfort, try one of the tips to see if they help.
However, doctors still hear this question over and over again: “My varicose veins are so ugly, Doc! What can I do?” Today’s article will tell you exactly what to do about those nasty varicose veins.
What Are Varicose Veins, Really?
Varicose veins are dilated, tortuous veins that run right underneath the skin of the legs. They are completely benign for the most part, except for cosmetic reasons. They occur in women only a little more frequently than they do in men, and approximately half the population has them, according to the Society of Interventional Radiology.
What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?
Fortunately, they are truly not as scary as they appear. And varicose veins are not life-threatening. Most people describe it as a mild tenderness overlying these enlarged veins, mild swelling of the legs, itching, sensation of skin tightening, or heaviness in the legs. The size of the vein does not correlate with the amount of discomfort. That means very small ones may cause discomfort and very large ones may not cause any problems at all. Symptoms are most commonly triggered after a period of standing.
But most people with varicose veins have no symptoms. The biggest complaint from my patients is that they just simply don’t look pretty. Not the worst health problem to have, I would say.
Who Gets Varicose Veins and What Causes Them?
People with a family history of varicose veins are more likely to have them. In addition, hormonal affects, such as the Pill or pregnancy, can cause enlarged varicose veins in those who are more susceptible towards them. They may or may not improve once the hormonal influences have been removed.
Also, those who tend to get varicose veins may get more of them with age.
There are “doorways,” or valves, running throughout our veins that help to push the blood flow from the feet back up to the heart. And if this doorway is too “flappy,” fluid tends to accumulate in the veins, and they seem to “pop out” more than usual. Unfortunately, this “flappiness” of the vein valves is sometimes genetic, and there is not much you can do to prevent it.
What Can You Do to Treat Them?
Well, you don’t have to do anything. For the most part, varicose veins are cosmetic and nothing to lose sleep over. But if you are one of those very few who are physically bothered by them, here are some Quick and Dirty Tips to help minimize those varicose veins:
Elevation: After a long day at work, you may find some mild swelling in your legs. Elevate your legs above the level of the heart by propping them over some pillows when you come home. This will help gravity pull the blood flow back to the heart.
Ice: Ice helps constrict blood vessels. And if those veins are dilated, applying an ice pack will help to reduce some of the swelling and discomfort over those swollen veins.
Anti-inflammatory Medications: Medicine such as Ibuprofen may help to reduce the swelling and inflammation in your legs as well. But make sure to ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to take them, since the anti-inflammatories do have a few contraindications and risks.
Compression Stockings: Pharmacies often carry special over-the-counter compression stockings that help “tighten” up the skin and externally support those varicose veins by pushing the blood flow more easily up towards the heart.
Exercise: Try to get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on most days out of the week. Exercise will help to pump blood back to the heart and improve the appearance of varicose veins, rather than allowing the blood to accumulate.
Review Your Medications: If you are taking any hormones, discuss them with your doctor to see if it may be exacerbating your varicose veins.
When to See Your Doctor About Your Varicose Veins
I’ve said that you don’t need to worry about varicose veins, but there are occasional instances when you might need to see your doctor. Make an appointment if:
your varicose veins cause your legs or feet to form ulcers. Ulcers are superficial openings on top of the skin.
you produce a significant amount of fluid retention in your legs
your veins start to bleed
your vein becomes very stiff and hardened
Of course, not many people want to be placed under the knife, but if your symptoms are so severe that they interfere with your quality of life and you don’t respond to the previously mentioned tips to mitigate your symptoms, then you may want to consider surgical options as a very last resort.
Thanks for listening to the Girlfriend MD's Quick and Dirty Tips to Understand Your Body.
Sanaz Majd, MD, contributed to this article, which was updated on November 14, 2016.