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Coping with varicose veins

Varicose veins can occur in any part of the body but generally appear on the legs. They are blue, tortuous, swollen veins that can be commonly seen on the legs. This is a condition in which veins become enlarged, dilated or thickened. Varicose veins are about thrice as common an occurrence in women as in men. They seem to come up suddenly out of no where and don't ever seem to go away. They may be painful and itchy. Some people develop spider like fine blue veins, which seem to go in all directions. There are smaller versions of varicose veins. They are not painful but definitely do not look good.

Occurrence

They can arise during pregnancy when the flow of blood back from the limbs is restricted due to excess weight. Varicose veins associated with pregnancy may cease to be a problem after child births other wise they can persist indefinitely. Sitting for long hours during pregnancy inhibits blood circulation and its movement towards the heart. The blood stagnates in that particular vein and stretches the vein forming an ugly blue snake like appearance. Damaged values in the veins allow blood to collect so that the vein walls are stretched until they lose their elasticity and are unable to contract to their normal shape. Other factors that lead to the development of varicose veins are constipation, being over weight, wearing tight fitting clothes, crossing of legs and sitting in same position for long hours, standing for long hours, heredity and menopause. When these veins become prominent and swollen, you may experience nagging aches and pains, cramps, itching, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs. Apart from looking ugly, varicose veins generally don't pose a serious problem. However some times they may lead to bleeding beneath the skin, clots and ulcerated near the ankles.

Prevention

People who eat a high fibre diet and avoiding constipation appear to have a reduced risk of varicose veins. Pregnant woman can elevate legs above heart level while resting as sitting for longer than 3 hours in one spot can increase susceptibility. Avoid doing so. Yoga and deep breathing exercises with help increases circulation and prevent varicose veins. Taking vitamin C supplements is necessary for the maintenance of strong blood vessels. Those who take a brisk walk daily seldom get varicose veins as exercise improves blood circulation and strengthens the blood vessels. Your diet should include a lot of fish as the omega 3 fatty acids in fish help improve circulation and prevent clot formation. Consume a lot of fruits and raw vegetables. Cherries and kala jamun are especially beneficial as they contain antioxidants which help to strengthen the venous wall and improve its tone so that it does not swell or bleed. Most highly coloured raw vegetables like beets, carrots, plums are beneficial. You can cut down on refined carbohydrates and increase your intake of soluble and insoluble fibre by eating plenty of fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole wheat, and brown rice. Bioflavanoids found in the pith of citrus fruits as well as in black currants, grapes, apricots have been claimed to help prevent or treat varicose veins. They help to keep the veins elastic and also prevent constipation.

Your diet should be rich in cereal fibre e.g. wheat bran as it works like a natural laxative. Eat more ginger, garlic and onions as they prevent clot formation and keep the veins elastic. Bromelain an enzyme found in pineapple is also known to be useful. Apart from these measurers drink plenty of water, stub out that cigarette, avoid junk food, refuse alcohol and fried foods. Taking supplements of vitamin E also helps to keep the blood thin and improves circulation. Good sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, seed oils and nuts. Zinc and vitamin B supplements also help in correcting this condition. Good sources of zinc are shellfish, lean meat and nuts. Above all if you are hereditary prone to varicose veins, make exercise a part of your lifestyle. Bending and stretching along with brisk walking help improve circulation and prevent varicose veins. The best dietary advice for prevention of varicose veins is to avoid obesity and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and fibre. Regular exercise especially walking can also help.

Varicose ulcers

Varicose ulcers are usually occurred when a varicose vein is injured by a blow in the leg or more commonly when blood leaks out of the distended damaged vein. Varicose ulcers can take months or even years of repeated treatment to heal. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy found to be useful in treatment of non-healing varicose ulcer.

Precautionary measures

  1. When on a long trip get up and walk around every half an hour or stretch your legs often.
  2. While sitting for long hours keep your feet elevated.
  3. Walking is very good exercise.
  4. Pregnant women should rest on a mattress with feet occasionally elevated.
  5. Movement of legs and feet should be encouraged to help keep circulation.

By Ms Mumtaz Khalid Ismail

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