Saturday, May 23, 2009

Varicose Veins & Spider Veins


I never had varicose or spider veins until I was pregnant. Let me rephrase that, I never noticed if I had them until I was about midway through my pregnancy and my legs were beginning to swell up like sausages and hurt. As I am vain and love to poke around on any topic relating to how I can improve my health, looks and general fabulousness, I did some research on both spider veins and their more horrible relative, varicose veins.

So What are Spider and Varicose Veins?

Spider Veins are basically capillaries. Spider veins are tiny blood vessels no more than 2 mm in diameter that may appear on the face, legs and ankles. They are bluish, purple or red and often form a web-like netting just below the skin’s surface. Spider veins are generally just an unattractive nuisance, although when they become large they can cause heaviness in the legs, night cramps and itching.

Varicose Veins are veins near the surface of the skin on the legs which have become permanently distended and filled with blood. Veins have valves that are designed to prevent blood from flowing backwards due to gravity. When a valve malfunctions or vein walls weaken, blood collects in the vein, forcing it to bulge. Varicose veins are unsightly, bluish or purple in color and can protrude from the leg. They may cause discomfort such as swelling, throbbing, heaviness, night cramps and long-term complications such as ulcerations or bleeding.

So What Causes Them?

For both varicose and spider veins, heredity is the main cause (of course, great!) The risk of developing these leg vein problems increases for women who are pregnant or using birth control pills because hormones such as estrogen can further weaken vein walls. Obesity and lack of exercise which weaken the system of leg veins are also factors. The risk of developing varicose veins increases with age for both men and women.

The "second heart" is a system of muscles, veins and valves in the calf and foot that work together as a pump to keep blood moving toward the heart against gravity. This system, though strong and capable of carrying tremendous weight and pressure, has a weak link: the venous (vein) system. Like the heart in our chest, the second heart keeps healthy through regular exercise.

How can I help prevent them?

Almost 80 million women and men in this country alone experience leg vein problems, including half of the women over the age of 40. Once spider and varicose veins develop, however, there is no way for the body to cure them. Fortunately, there are simple ways to prevent these problems from spreading and alleviate symptoms (phew!). The sum of these preventive measures is referred to by doctors as the conservative approach. Wearing support stockings with compression and orthotics are the most common type of conservative treatment. Regular exercise promotes healthy circulation within the second heart and also slows the development of new varicose and spider veins. Diet, lifestyle changes, dietary supplements, and other natural alternatives can also compliment the conservative approach. There are other things you can do to promote good leg vein health, including:

- Eat a high fiber diet to prevent constipation (FitFlax is great source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber).

- Don’t wear extremely tight clothing.

- Move more! SmartSoles are a great insole that increases circulation and tones muscles and have proven to aid in preventing additional spider and varicose veins.

- Explore natural alternatives, such as massage and dietary supplements (vitamins C&E may help relieve swelling and other symptoms of poor circulation).

- Avoid crossing your legs.

Following these measures is the best defense against the spread or development of these vein problems. If you are at risk for developing either spider or varicose veins, start these conservative and preventive measures soon.

I found that also getting your partner to massage your legs and feet helps too...or at least it feels good!


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