Varicose veins, the most common vein disorder, affect approximately 40
million Americans. They are large, twisted veins, usually in the legs and feet,
that are not transporting blood effectively. They appear as bulging, bluish
cords beneath the surface of your skin. If ignored, varicose veins can cause not
only discomfort and cosmetic concerns, but also serious complications, such as
phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), skin ulcers, and blood clots.
Signs and Symptoms
Varicose veins are accompanied by the following signs and
Prominent dark-blue blood vessels, especially in the legs and feet
(not "spidery"-looking veins)
Aching, tender, heavy, or sore legs
Swelling in the ankles or feet, especially after standing
Breaks in the skin
Superficial blood clots
Bleeding after a minor injury
What Causes It?
Varicose veins develop when your veins stretch and their valves, which
prevent back flow of blood, fail. Primary varicose veins result from weakness in
the walls of the veins. Secondary varicose veins are most often caused by
problems with veins lying deep among the muscles, which carry about 90 percent
of the returning blood. These problems include blood clots and the resulting
diversion of blood flow into other superficial vessels.
Who's Most At Risk?
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for
developing varicose veins.
Family history (accounts for 50% of cases)
Female (three times more common)
Hormonal changes related to pregnancy, premenstrual period, and
Standing for long periods
Arteriovenous fistulas (abnormal blood flow between arteries and
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with varicose veins, you should
see your health care provider. He or she will conduct a physical exam and also
may perform tests to determine how well your veins are functioning and to
distinguish between primary and secondary varicose veins. Imaging procedures may
also be used.
Conservative treatment may be all that is needed. This may involve avoiding
prolonged sitting, standing, or walking; getting regular exercise; elevating
your legs on a periodic basis; and wearing compression stockings.
Regular exercise improves vein functioning, and weight loss and exercise
decrease the likelihood of blood clots.
Surgical and Other Procedures
Sclerotherapy—injection of a solution into a
varicose vein, followed by application of a compression dressing, in order to
obliterate the vein
Radiofrequency ablation—a new technique in
which a catheter is threaded into the varicose vein to heat the vein wall in
order to obliterate the vein and improve the function of its valve
Surgery—removal of the varicose
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
A comprehensive treatment plan for varicose veins may include a range of
complementary and alternative therapies.
Eat foods rich in dietary fiber in the form of complex carbohydrates (whole
grains) and bioflavonoids (dark berries, dark leafy greens, garlic, and
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include vitamin C (500 to 1,000
mg three times per day), vitamin E (200 to 600 IU per day), and zinc (15 to 30
mg per day).
Herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms. Herbs are generally available
as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol
extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp. per cup of
water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20 minutes).
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) 500 mg three times per
day or standardized Aescin 10 mg three times per day
Butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus) standardized extract (9% to
11% ruscogenin) 100 mg three times per day
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) 1,000 mg two to four times per
day, or standardized extract (asiaticoside 40%, Asiatic acid 30%, madecassoside
1% to 2%) 60 mg one to two times per day
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) standardized extract (25%
anthocyanoside) 80 to 160 mg three times per day
Combine the following in equal parts: yarrow (Achillea millefolium),
hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), marigold
(Calendula officinalis), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum),
and ginger (Zingiber officinalis). Take 30 to 60 drops tincture two to
three times per day or drink three to four cups of tea
Some of the most common remedies include Aesculus, Fluoricum
acidum, Hamamelis, and Secale. Acute dose is three to five
pellets of 12X to 30 C every one to four hours until symptoms are
Cold compresses of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and yarrow
(Achillea millefolium) tea may provide temporary
Acupuncture and Massage
Acupuncture and massage may help improve the overall circulatory
Varicose vein disease is a chronic condition, and new varicose veins often
develop after treatment.
Walking after sclerotherapy is important to help promote healing.
If you've had surgical treatment, contact your health care provider if you
develop severe pain, tenderness, swelling, scabs, or
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Review Date: March 2000
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Gary Guebert, DC, DACBR, Login
Chiropractic College, Maryland Heights, MO; Anne McClenon, ND, Compass Family
Health Center, Plymouth, MA.
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