Varicose veins are basically enlarged veins, anywhere on the body, but especially in the legs and feet. The legs are probably more affected because standing and walking increases the pressure on the veins in the lower extremities.
The problem of varicose veins ranges from mild cosmetic concern, especially in case of the so-called spider veins, to painful and frustrating condition. However, varicose veins may be a sign of a more serious health issue regarding the circulatory system.
Symptoms of varicose veins
Varicose veins are easily observed because they become visible through the skin. They appear as dark purple or blue lines, usually on the legs, often twisted or bulging, like wires or cables. In mild cases, they may be present only occasionally. However, varicose veins can also be painful, as an achy or heavy feeling in the legs, with burning, throbbing or swelling in the entire leg, possibly with itching. The pain and other sensations become worse after prolonged sitting or standing. In severe cases, skin ulcers may appear around varicose veins, which is a sign of a serious vascular disease.
Spider veins are a much milder form of varicose veins. They are not painful and they appear closer to the surface of the skin, usually in form of smaller and thinner red or blue lines.
Prevention of varicose veins
Varicose veins cannot be completely prevented, however, they can be alleviated by improving the blood circulation and muscle tone. This reduces the risk of getting varicose veins or getting new ones.
The measures that are used to alleviate varicose veins are the same as those used for prevention. This may include exercise, especially of aerobic type, such as jogging, walking, bicycle-riding, swimming, dancing and such, keeping fit and watching the weight to avoid obesity, maintaining a diet rich in fiber and low in sodium, taking care of the footwear, for example wearing comfortable shoes with moderately high heels and avoiding tight hosiery, avoiding standing or sitting for prolonged periods and elevating the feet while resting.
Some people are bound to spend a lot of time standing or sitting and they are at risk of developing varicose veins. Those people are advised to make frequent pauses while they work to stretch their legs, change the position or maybe take a brief walk. If possible, they should elevate their legs for several minutes each hour.
In addition, people who have an increased risk of varicose veins should consult their doctor about special garments, such as compression stockings, that can prevent this problem with veins.