Prevention and Treatment of Varicose and Spider Veins
Varicose veins are prominent engorged and convoluted/twisted veins which are visible just below the skin. In severe cases the veins bulge and can be easily bruised. These veins typically appear on the legs and thighs but appear elsewhere as in the case of hemorrhoids which occur in the rectum. Very small bluish, purple veins visible below the skin with a typical ‘spider-web’ appearance are called spider veins. They may in some instances be associated with varicose vein when there is an inter-connection with these larger veins. Varicose veins affect men and women alike and are not unusual in pregnant women.
The feet are furthest from the heart than any other musculo-skeletal structure and the fact that venous blood from the feet flows against gravity to return to the heart to be replenished with nutrients and oxygen puts our feet at risk for poor circulatory complications. The veins in the legs have valves that prevent the back flow of blood. Well-toned calf muscles contract when we walk and exercise to squeeze and pump the blood up the legs. This reduces the pressure in the veins and by extension the pooling/ stagnation of blood.
When these valves are incompetent there is a back flow of the venous blood and this leads to pooling in the lower limbs and increases the pressure in the veins.
A complication of severe varicose veins is the development of leg ulcers. This happens due to hypoxia (low or no oxygen and nutrients reaching the tissue). The tissue will eventually die, and this is what is called ischemia. Smoking, obesity, limited ankle movement and poor calf muscle tone and strength are all risk factors for developing leg ulcers.
- Prominent, twisted veins
- Burning sensation, itching
There are risk factors that can predispose an individual to varicose veins:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being on your feet for most of the day
- Sitting for several hours at a time
As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure” and so we encourage you to have an early check up with the doctor or physical therapist to nip in the bud, any early signs of varicose veins. Have an assessment done if you plan to do high impact aerobic exercise, sport or marathon.
Prevent the development or worsening varicose vein by elevating the legs as often as you can. You may wish to consider wearing compression stockings/socks to improve the circulation in the lower limbs. Travel socks are useful for air travel and especially for long flights.
Other useful therapies to improve these unsightly veins are:
- Massage: Gentle massaging to simulate the effect of support stockings are helpful but should be done by a trained physical therapist.
- Daily walking helps to reduce the appearance of varicose veins.
- It is important to elevate the legs often to reduce the symptoms of swelling and pain.
- Support stockings in the interim are also helpful.
- Acupuncture and acupressure: modalities of treatment from the east which help to relieve pain and swelling
- Yoga: including head stands and other “reverse gravity” positions improve the circulation in the lower extremities
- Aromatherapy: Techniques used to stimulate the circulation
- Color Therapy: Another non-invasive therapy used for improving the circulation
- Schuessler salts: Homeopathic salts are use in foot baths to bring relief to the pain and swelling caused by varicose veins.
- Herbal Therapy: are used in foot baths
- Weight management: Overweight individuals should try to lose the extra pounds as this brings relief from the leg pain and discomfort.
Graduated compression therapy is the use of support elastic stocking which are worn to literally squeeze the blood up the legs thereby making the blood flow up through the circulatory system back to the heart much better. This reduces the pooling of blood and improves the appearance of varicose veins.
Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy
A common assumption is that when there is pain in a leg with varicose veins, the cause of the pain is the varicose veins. Poor circulation in the lower back, hip and pelvis can result from a misalignment of the bony structures. This in return causes the pooling of blood in the lower limbs and increased venous pressure in the veins of the thighs and legs. So although when one usually thinks of a consultation to resolve varicose veins, the chiropractor does not readily come to mind. Realignment of the lower back, hip and pelvis can and does improve the varicose veins.
The chiropractor relieves the pain in the legs by relieving the pressure that impedes the blood flow. A non-invasive therapy used by the chiropractor is the manipulation of the pelvis to improve the circulation thus reducing the pressure in the veins.
A sclerosant drug is injected into the abnormal veins and this causes the veins to collapse and then seal. An improvement of this technique is the Foam Sclerotherapy. The drug is mixed to create foaming effect and the delivery system is the same.
This procedure is growing in popularity because it is minimally invasive. There is less pain, bruising and scarring. It involves the closure of the varicose vein using a closure catheter which is gentle heated. This causes the vein to collapse and seal itself. The clinical outcomes have been excellent.
Laser light treatment for veins from a hand held device is positioned over the veins. This causes the veins to collapse and improves the appearance of the skin. This procedure is ideal for small varicose and spider veins.
There are severe cases of varicose veins which may indeed require a surgical solution. Phlebectomy involves the surgical removal of large varicose veins and this is done by making small incisions on the skin immediately above the vein and pulling the vein through is segments. This surgical procedure can be done as an ambulatory care/outpatient service.
A call to take action
So whether you already have varicose veins or believe you may be at risk of developing the same due to early symptoms of circulatory failure, it is wise to consult with a physician to have an assessment done. Severe cases of varicose veins should be referred to a vascular surgeon.