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.