Do I need the veins you are going to treat?
Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging and/or twisted veins that are visible on the surface of the skin. In contrast, spider veins are small veins that typically show up very near to the surface of the skin as tiny red, blue or purple lines. Spider veins are not dangerous to one’s health but can be unsightly and can cause leg discomfort. Varicose veins may be of cosmetic concern, commonly causing symptoms such as leg heaviness, aching, fatigue, itching, night cramps and restless legs. Varicose veins can cause health complications such as leg swelling, phlebitis, bleeding, skin inflammation and leg ulceration.
Varicose veins and spider veins are more common in women, though men can be affected too. Varicose veins and spider veins are caused vein wall weakness and/or valve dysfunction, leading to blood pooling in the affected veins. This pooling causes the veins to enlarge and become more visible. Most patients with spider veins and varicose veins have a genetic predisposition with a family history of these veins. The hormone changes and weight gain associated with pregnancy can also trigger this blood pooling. Increased pressure can also result from sitting or standing for extended periods of time and from injuries. While it is common for these veins to first appear during adolescence, they get more common with age.
A variety of treatments can be used to manage spider veins and varicose veins. These include sclerotherapy, foam sclerotherapy, laser treatment, ambulatory phlebectomy, endovenous laser ablation, radiofrequency ablation and vein stripping. Some patients may prefer conservative treatment, with its lower cost and risk. Natural varicose vein treatment options include:
- Compression stockings to improve blood circulation in the leg veins:
- Graduated compression stockings can reduce blood pooling and improve blood flow. Stockings typically reduce symptoms caused by dysfunctional veins, and can help reduce leg swelling, inflammation and ulceration due to these veins. They may also reduce the risk of blood clot formation and are commonly recommended during long travel.
- Physical therapy to improve blood circulation in the leg veins:
- Walking and other such exercises serve to stimulate the calf pump, which is the main mechanism that causes blood in the leg veins to flow back to the heart and lungs.
Herbal home remedies for varicose veins may also be useful. Studies suggest they may reduce symptoms such as pain and swelling, and may improve venous ulcer healing. Some commonly used herbs include:
- Horse chestnut is an herb commonly used to improve symptoms of venous reflux and varicose veins. An active ingredient in the horse chestnut products, called escin, controls certain enzymes that tend to weaken or damage blood vessel walls. Studies show that horse chestnut supplements can reduce the swelling and pain produced by varicose veins in the legs.
- Butcher’s broom plant extracts contain special components called ruscogenins that may boost collagen levels. These supplements may tighten blood vessels with weakened walls, and thereby improve overall blood flow in the venous system.
- Diosmin, available in prescription form in Europe and as an over the counter supplement in the United States, has also been used as a natural treatment for varicose veins.
If you are seeking natural vein treatment for your spider veins and varicose veins, consult a DoctorQA veins expert to go over all the options available to you.
Reviewed by Steven E. Zimmet, MD, RVT, FACPh
Editor of Phlebology
President, Zimmet Vein & Dermatology
Past-President, American College of Phlebology