What are Varicose Veins?
If you have swollen, misshapen veins on your legs, you may be wondering whether you have varicose veins and what you should do about it. Varicose veins are very common. In fact, more than 40 million people in the U.S. have them. If you think you may have this condition, it’s important to understand what they are, what causes them, and what natural remedies are available.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are sometimes called varicosities, varicoses, or spider veins. They look like swollen and raised veins with a red, blue, or purple color.
Varicose veins are very common in women, and they can be quite painful. It’s estimated that about a quarter of all adults have varicose veins. Most of the time, they appear on the lower legs.
Varicose Veins Causes and Symptoms
Varicose veins can have many causes, and they can produce many symptoms.
Varicose veins develop when your veins aren’t working properly. Veins have valves that only allow blood to flow in one direction, but when these valves fail, it can cause blood to pool in the veins instead of flowing to the heart. This build-up causes the veins to enlarge.
The reason why varicose veins commonly affect the lower legs is that these veins are farthest from the heart and gravity makes it harder to pump blood to the heart.
Several things can cause varicose veins, including:
- Standing for long periods of time
Varicose veins are easy to spot. They are:
- Raised and swollen
- Purple, blue or red in color
These veins can also cause other symptoms in and around the affected area, including:
In more severe cases, varicose veins can bleed and cause ulcers to develop.
Although varicose veins are sometimes considered unsightly, they don’t typically cause long-term health issues.
Varicose Veins Natural Remedies
In many cases, natural remedies are used to help treat varicose veins. Surgery is only recommended in extreme and severe cases where the veins are causing a great deal of pain. Natural remedies that can help with varicose veins include:
Making Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes can often help prevent varicose veins and keep them from getting worse. Your doctor may recommend:
- Losing weight
- Exercising to improve your circulation
- Avoiding standing for long periods of time
- Using compression stockings or socks
- Elevating your legs whenever you’re sleeping or resting
Simple lifestyle changes can make a world of difference, but consistency is the key to success.
While essential oils won’t get rid of varicose veins, they can help with the aching, swelling, and burning that sometimes accompany this condition.
Some essential oils that may help with varicose veins include:
This aromatic herb is best known for its pleasant scent and ability to soothe anxiety. There is also evidence that lavender essential oil has analgesic properties, which can help with the pain from varicose veins.
Other research suggests that lavender oil can help reduce skin ulcers, which is a common side effect of varicose veins.
Poor circulation can contribute to varicose veins. Rosemary essential oil may help improve blood flow. In fact, one in vitro study found that rosemary oil not only helped improve blood circulation but also helped ease the pain.
To help reduce inflammation (or swelling) caused by varicose veins, frankincense essentials oils may help. Research shows that this essential oil can help prevent the release of leukotrienes and inhibit 5-lipoxygenase.
The enzyme 5-lipoxygenase promotes the creation of leukotrienes, which is a group of inflammatory mediators.
In that study, researchers found that frankincense even helped re-program inflammatory enzymes to make them anti-inflammatory.
Ginger has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to help combat a variety of medical conditions. It’s best known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and research backs up this claim:
- One study in rats found that ginger essential oil reduced chronic joint swelling.
- Another study found that ginger essential oil was anti-inflammatory.
- A study from 2019 found that high doses of ginger helped decrease markers of inflammation in obese mice.
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects may help ease swelling in varicose veins.
Peppermint oil may help with both inflammation and pain. It contains compounds that can help it act as both a pain reliever, relaxant, and anti-inflammatory agent.
Peppermint essential oil contains menthol, which creates a cooling sensation and can help improve blood flow.
One study found that peppermint oil was just as effective as acetaminophen at alleviating headache pain. Other research also supports the claim that peppermint has anti-inflammatory effects.
Most people associate chamomile with restful sleep and relaxation. That's because this aromatic herb really does help you relax and sleep better. It may also help with inflammation and pain.
Here’s what the research says about chamomile essential oil:
- One study found that chamomile helped ease anxiety symptoms in 58.1% of participants.
- Another study found that German chamomile helped with both anxiety and depression over the course of eight weeks.
- In one study, topical diluted chamomile essential oil helped ease pain in people with osteoarthritis.
- Another study found that chamomile oil helped ease pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Topical chamomile can help bring targeted relief right on the varicose vein and surrounding area.
One of the most commonly recommended treatments for varicose veins is compression stockings or socks.
Compression stockings work by placing pressure on your legs, which makes it easier for blood to flow up to your heart. These socks or stockings can also help reduce swelling that often occurs with varicose veins.
There are different levels of compression to choose from, and the right one for you will depend on the severity of the condition. You can find compression socks in most drug or medical supply stores.
Varicose veins, even if they aren’t inherently dangerous, they are still irritating and frustrating, and many people want to stop them from getting worse.
These remedies can help ease the pain and potentially prevent more varicose veins from developing in the future. Lifestyle changes, compression stockings, and essential oils can all be effective at alleviating pain and reducing the swelling associated with varicose veins.
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