Varicose veins are contorted, enlarged veins that are usually visible on the surface of the legs or feet. While it is a relatively common condition that affects up to three in ten adults in the UK, many of us are still unsure about what causes them, what symptoms are involved and how they can be treated. To help shed some light on the matter, here are five things you probably didn’t know about varicose veins.
1. They can have serious health implications
While they are not usually considered a cause for concern, varicose veins can have more serious health implications than you may think. Often, the enlarged veins are seen as a cosmetic condition that does not necessarily require treatment. However, the truth is that they can cause extreme discomfort, as well as unpleasant symptoms such as itching, muscle cramp, swollen ankles and feet and a throbbing sensation in the legs. Without treatment, varicose veins can develop into a more serious health risk, such as a blood clot. While this is rare, you should always consult your GP if you are worried about the appearance of your veins.
2. Both men and women can be affected at any age
Most people believe that varicose veins only affect older women. However, this is a misconception.The condition can actually occur at any age and it can affect men too. While older people may be more susceptible as the veins begin to lose their elasticity, the condition can strike at any time in life. Even young adults and teenagers can be affected.
3. Exercise can be used as a treatment
Contrary to popular belief, exercise does not aggravate varicose veins. In actual fact, it can help to reduce some of the symptoms. Doing regular physical activity can improve circulation in the legs and promote healthy blood flow. Exercise can also regulate blood pressure, meaning that less force is being put on the valves in the veins, therefore minimising the risk of them becoming damaged.
4. The main cause is genetics
It is widely thought that sitting down for too long and crossing your legs is the primary cause for varicose veins when in reality, the main culprit is genetics. Genes account for a large amount of people who suffer from the condition, so if any one of your relatives have had varicose veins, it’s more likely that you will too. Being overweight or pregnant can also increase your chance of developing this problem.
5. Self-help treatments can be highly effective
What many people don’t know is that there are many simple home treatments you can do to help ease the symptoms without the need for medical assistance. For example, one of the easiest ways to treat varicose veins is to elevate your feet when you are sleeping. By making the foot of the bed higher, you can help to encourage blood flow around the body and stop it from pooling in the legs. Compression socks can also be highly effective as they help to gently squeeze the veins in the legs to improve circulation.