There was a strange thing behind my left knee, which looked at a glance like a bruise. If you looked more closely, though, it was a cluster of little veins. It’s not there now because I did something about it.
My mother had varicose veins. Big lumpy things in her lower legs, which she was obviously very conscious of. As a kid I didn’t think about what caused them. They were just part of her and at that age you don’t expect your mother to be glamorous anyway. You’re too wrapped up in yourself and the millions of things to be learnt.
It was only as I grew older and started to get a few age-related blemishes myself that I began to think about that woman’s trials and tribulations.
I certainly hadn’t expected to inherit such a medical condition from her, but sure enough, in due course I developed a few spider veins, which are smaller, spidery groups of defective veins.
Because they are not purely the province of middle-aged women, an ugly by-product of having children, heaving all that extra weight around for nine months.
Varicose veins and spider veins affect almost as many men as women. Perhaps the reason we don’t realize that is that men tend to wear long trousers and we don’t have the feminine predisposition to showing off our legs. And a good thing, too, in many cases.
But what exactly are varicose veins? Before we get to that, the first question is “what are veins for?” And the answer is that they take blood back up to the heart. There are exceptions, but in general that’s what veins do.. Arteries send blood out, it flows around our body, carrying oxygen, and veins send it home again.
That sounds like a simple job, but of course veins are usually working against gravity, and the human body is only self-renewing up to a point. Some parts get tired and become inefficient. Varicose veins have that tendency.
In most cases varicose veins are unsightly rather than harmful, although there is a slight possibility of being linked to deep vein thrombosis, so sufferers should get them looked at by a doctor just to make sure.
So what can we do about this affliction? Several things.
One good thing is that natural alternatives are now available.
If you’re not sold on that, there are other solutions, ranging from surgery (invasive, disruptive and to be avoided if there is an alternative) and there are simple measures, from self-help to non-surgical varicose vein removal.
The simplest of all is worth trying first. Get your lower legs in shape. The leg muscles play a key part in helping the veins to push blood upwards, so something as simple as brisk regular walking can be a good idea.Sufferers should also look into low impact exercises such as leg lifts, calf raises, bicycle lifts and side lunges. Any good gym instructor will give you some suggestions.