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.
Another elementary thing we can do for ourselves. In this case the object is to lose a bit of weight, and most of us could benefit from that anyway.
What we need plenty of are water and fibre. What we don’t want are carbohydrates, so it’s fruit and vegetables, plus protein. But don’t go crazy. Ask your doctor for sensible targets. More information here: a table for proper calorie deficit. Fruits that have plenty of vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, strawberries, kiwi, mangoes and papayas. In addition to fruits, bell peppers have lots of vitamin C, and so do chillies. You won’t be whizzing up chilli smoothies, but every little helps. And help yourself to as much broccoli, kale and cauliflower as you like. For vitamin B, try chicken, eggs, tuna, bananas and avocados. And if we don’t ban carbs outright, there’s also whole-grain flour, brown and wild rice, whole barley, muesli, oatmeal, millet and wheat germ. Shellfish, cheese, liver, clams – they’ll all help.
- Compression therapy.
Doctors often recommend compression stockings to ease varicose veins and increase circulation. These are tight socks that gently squeeze around the ankle area, giving the blood a bit of help pushing upwards. You can wear these under trousers and no one will know.
This very different approach actually gets rid of the offending veins. There are plenty of others that can do the job, so the body will just reroute the blood.It involves injecting a liquid sometimes compared to diluted shaving foam into the veins. It weakens them and eventually they break down, to be harmlessly reabsorbed by the body. The procedure takes about 10 minutes, and it is considered very effective because it also closes off “feeder veins” which are the main factor in the recurrence of spider veins. After the procedure, the patient must wear compression stockings or bandages for two weeks, and walk a lot. Depending on the condition, some patients may need more than one treatment
- Laser therapy.
Ah, the laser. Sometimes confused with laser liposuction treatment, laser therapy for varicose veins, is very different. A wonderful invention with a whole range of uses. Many med spa treatment centers offer this treatment. It is virtually painless, and again, destroys the targeted veins. The technician directs a highly focused beam of light above the skin of the varicose vein, which will damage it and cause it to develop scar tissue. That, in turn blocks the blood flow in that region and obliges the body to find alternative routes.My mother didn’t have the range of options that exist today, so she just accepted her varicose veins, but we don’t have to do that now. I got mine lasered and now, while I’m not planning to start wearing skirts to show the world my perfect pins, I can stroll around the beach without being self-conscious.
Do you have a success story about getting rid of varicose veins? If so we’d like to hear it, so please leave a comment.