varicose veins

Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged. They often develop twists and turns whereas a normal vein would run straight. Although any vein could, in theory, become varicose, usually this is seen with veins in the legs and feet. They may sometimes cause fatigue and discomfort, and of course, they look unattractive.

Do Varicose Veins Lead to Complications?

Are these enlarged, lumpy veins really something to be concerned about? That was the question Taiwanese researchers set out to answer (Chang et al, JAMA, Feb. 27, 2018).

The investigators examined the health records of more than 400,000 patients. Half had varicose veins, while the other half did not.

The Taiwanese study lasted 14 years, and the median follow-up for patients was over seven years. The people who had varicose veins were substantially more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis (dangerous blood clots in the vein) compared to the group that had normal veins.

Deep Vein Thrombosis:

Whether varicose veins themselves contribute to blood clots is unknown, but the association was surprisingly strong. There were 10,360 cases of deep vein thrombosis among people with gnarled veins. That compared to only 1,980 cases in the control group. Since the groups were the same size, that is a five-fold absolute risk difference.

The authors point out that it is still too early to conclude that varicose veins cause clots, though there may be some common risk factors that predispose people to both.

Natural Treatments for Varicose Veins:

Sometimes people have their unsightly veins treated surgically. But many readers would like to know about natural treatments.

Q. Will horse chestnut help varicose veins? Is there anything else I can do to ease this discomfort? My legs feel so heavy and tired at the end of the day.

A. Varicose veins have become enlarged. They may look like blue or purple cords just under the surface of the skin on the legs. Although this condition doesn’t always cause symptoms, some people do find that the legs ache or feel heavy.

There are a number of treatments for varicose veins, including surgery, laser treatment or foam. People are urged to exercise regularly but avoid sitting or standing still for long periods of time to prevent recurrence.

Spending some time every day with the legs up may help, and compression hose are sometimes helpful as well. Although prescription compression hose can be pricey, some folks find it helpful to wear ordinary support hose.

Horse Chestnut and Other Extracts:

In Europe, horse chestnut extract (Aesculus hippocastanum) such as Aesculaforce or Venastat is  used to improve blood vessel resilience and increase circulation (Suter, Bommer & Rechner, Advances in Therapy, Jan-Feb. 2006).

Pycnogenol, derived from the bark of the French maritime pine, reduces leg swelling and can be helpful when veins are no longer working efficiently (Gulati, Phytotherapy Research, March, 2014). Either of these botanical medicines would definitely be worth a try.

Italian researchers have found that pycnogenol and Venoruton, a proprietary medicine containing derivatives of the flavonoid rutin, were helpful in reducing edema and improving circulation (Belcaro et al, International Journal of Angiology, Sep. 2017). These supplements worked as well as compression stockings and were more comfortable to use in warm climates.

Unfortunately, no one knows whether compression hose or botanical extracts will reduce the possibility of a blood clot forming deep in a varicose vein. Now that scientists have discovered the connection, we hope they will be on the lookout for an effective way to prevent this complication.

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  1. Julia Stone

    When I was pregnant of my second child some varicose veins started to appear on my legs, at that time I wasn’t really worried, but as they got worse I started to get worried so I visited a specialist who recommended me venorid treatment, and the results have been amazing! Also, exercising at least three times a week is helping me a lot to relieve the varicose veins symptoms!

  2. Marcella

    Varicose veins run in my paternal family. My grandmother and her sisters and her mother had them. My father and two of his sisters had them. One of my brothers and my two sisters have them. My father had veins burst without realizing it. He had them stripped two or three times. He had horrible ulcers. He was being treated at the V A about an hour’s drive away and he had to go once a week. They used Una boots (a gel wrap). When I retired, I began going with him and they taught me how to put the wraps on him. At one point, I read an article about Diabetic Clinic in our town and a new treatment for ulcerated legs. I took my father, although he was not diabetic, they agreed to treat him. The director said she had never seen such bad ulcers and felt it would take months to control. However, it took only about 6 weeks. The treatment was using Perfore wraps. We were able to keep his ulcers under control for the rest of his life–about 15 years. I, myself use Jobst support hose when I travel more than 2 hours and also when I am walking more than a mile. I have not developed any ulcers. I tried having “innovative” laser surgery. It did not work. Within one year, they were back and then they were painful (which they never had been).

  3. Mike
    Maple Valley, WA

    People at risk for deep vein thrombosis should check out a product called Nattokinase. This Is an enzyme derived from natto, a foul smelling cheese made from fermented soy. The enzyme travels in the blood stream and if it encounters fibrogen (the material from which a clot is formed) it simply devours it. It is usually taken in 100mg capsules as often as one every four hours. My doctor recommended it to me several years ago and I have been taking it ever since. I have found no side effects. Available in most health food stores as well as online.

  4. Karin

    I have varicose veins. I used to have occasional bouts of phlebitis and had venous insufficiency with stasis eczema. I began taking diosmin, a citrus bioflavonoid, with hesperidin and the herbs mentioned in this article. (Venous Optimizer by Jarrow). I still have varicose veins but they’re about 75% improved. All the other issues are ancient history now.

  5. Spockmom

    Anyone with discomfort and fatigue from varicose veins Would do well to check out compression hosiery. My most valuable clothing is Sigvaris thigh-high stocking 20-30mg. Wear them all day every day and everywhere I go. Expensive and worth every penny. Mine are from Many brands/styles available. 🎈

  6. Barbara

    My husband has this condition. It is caused by the valves in the veins not working properly. The blood then ‘backs up’ in the vein. Reducing the swelling in the legs may help alleviate the ache, but the only way right now to eliminate the danger is by laser surgery to ablate the vein. Even with that, it must be watched closely for reoccurances.

  7. Carol

    DVT is not the only concern with varicose veins. In 1999 I had my first ulcer below the ankle as a result of the blood not pumping up my legs to my heart. The blood pools in the lowest points of the veins and breaks down the tissue from the inside out. I had been taking supplements for leg veins for a number of years trying to bolster the health of my veins, and wearing compression stockings too. For nearly 20 years I endured recurrences of these extremely painful wounds that appeared below both ankles that took a long time to heal, and were debilitating. I was under the care of wound clinics, endured debriding of the wounds many times, and was on strong pain meds.

    I went to numerous vascular surgeons who said they couldn’t help me. I elevated my legs above my heart, wore strong (and expensive!) compression stockings religiously, and was depressed. Finally, one wound care doctor connected me with a vascular surgeon who said he could help me, and I went thru numerous procedures to get rid of the many veins that were causing the problem. Now I have been free of ulcers for about a year and active in daily life without pain meds. I still wear my compression stockings religiously, even during hot weather. Thank goodness I finally got to the right doctor!

  8. Carol

    It’s not Just blood clots that are a concern as a result of varicose veins. In 1999 I got my first ulcer below the ankle as a result of var

  9. Lida

    When you recommend supplements it would be helpful for you to indicate if there are any caveats to using them especially if they should not be used with certain prescription meds or other vitamins and supplements.

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