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Varicose Veins: What are they and how do you get rid of them

Updated on July 06, 2007

The word "varicose" comes from the Latin root "varix," which means "twisted." Varicose veins are a common condition in the United States, affecting up to 15 percent of men and up to 25 percent of women.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and/or twisted. We usually hear the word used when referring to viens on the legs, but varicose viens can form anywhere on the body. (However, as you read on you will see why woman have a greater chance of developing them in their legs).

Varicose veins can range from what we commonly call "spider veins"- small blue veins that a simply a cosmetic concern, to painful large blue veins which can lead to serious circulation problems.

The difference between varicose veins and spider veins

Varicose veins are dark purple or blue in color and may and look like the are twisted and buldging, they look like long cords that have been all twisted up. They commonly appear on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg. However, they can form anywhere on your legs, from your groin to your ankle.

Spider veins are smaller and can be blue or red in color. They occur on the legs, but can also be found on the face. Spider veins vary in size and often look like a spider's web or a tree branch.

Signs and symptoms of varicose veins

The signs and symptoms can range from small blue veins to painful swollen legs- some of the common symptoms are the following:

  • Small blue veins that appear continuously and even when you are off your feet
  • An achy or heavy feeling in your legs, including throbbing and muscle cramping
  • Swollen legs, which worsens when standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Skin ulcers near your ankle (this represents a serious medical problem and you should notify your doctor immediately)

Causes of varicose veins

These veins are the result of circulatory problems, these problems can be caused by a number of factors, including the following:

  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in your body, but decreases the flow of blood from your legs to your pelvis. This circulatory change is designed to support the growing fetus, but it can produce an unfortunate side effect - enlarged veins in your legs.
  • Age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to malfunction.
  • Sex. Women are more likely than men are to develop the condition. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, premenstruation or menopause may be a factor. Female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may increase your risk of varicose veins.
  • Genetics. If other family members had varicose veins, there's a greater chance you will too.
  • Obesity. Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
  • Standing for long periods of time. Your blood doesn't flow as well if you're in the same position for long periods.

Treatment and Prevention

The best way to prevent and treat varicose veins is to improve circulation, here are some things that can help you do that:

  • Exercise. Get your legs moving. Walking is a great way to encourage blood circulation in your legs. Your doctor can recommend an appropriate activity level for you.
  • Watch your weight, and your diet. Shedding excess pounds takes unnecessary pressure off your veins. What you eat makes a difference, too. Follow a low-salt, high-fiber diet to prevent the swelling that may result from water retention and constipation.
  • Watch what you wear. Avoid high heels. Low-heeled shoes work calf muscles more, which is better for your veins. Don't wear tight clothes around your waist, legs or groin. Tight panty-leg girdles, for instance, can restrict circulation.
  • Elevate your legs. To improve venous circulation, take several short breaks daily to elevate your legs above the level of your heart. For example, lie down with your legs resting on three or four pillows.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Make a point of changing your position frequently to encourage blood flow. Try to move around at least every 30 minutes.
  • Don't sit with your legs crossed. This position can aggravate circulation problems.

If these measures don't seem to work you may want to discuss surgery with your doctor- most of the surgeries done today are simple laser surgery which provide for an easy treatment and a quick recovery.

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  • Isabella Snow profile image

    Isabella Snow 9 years ago

    Good hub!

    I have had barely-there spider veins around my ankles since I was about 22. Comes from wearing 6 inch heels and standing in basically 1 place for 3 and 4 hours at a time. You would need to put your nose right up to my ankle to see them - but I hate them!

    Now that Im 30ish, I have gone down to 4 inch heels (lol, I know, its still high, but hey, Im short!) and still have the same job (singing) and stand for 3 and 4 hours at a time.. but now I also write trashy books and spend 16 hours a day sitting down, sometimes.

    I have a little box under my desk now and keep my feet propped up, it helps a lot.

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    Alfredo 9 years ago

    Greetings.

    Whole milk consumption helps for blood circulation problems?

    Thank you.

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    Naghmeh 8 years ago

    Dear Sir.Iam girl from Iran ,Thran.Iam 39 years old.I have problem with my viens blue in back of my anckle in my right leg.It make ugly legs.I would like lost viens blue. I preffer have health and beautiful legs without any viens blue or Varicose viens.I cannot use laser because my skin body has became change.some part of body became brown.What do u think about surgry It is safe & suitble way for lost apperence viens blue?when my leg is above my heart the viens is very bright or almost clean.When I stand my leg blood in flowd in my viens.there for my viens is clear or dark.I don't like remind my apperence viens blue after surgry.could u please advise me as soon as possible. Sincerely your's,N.V.My Email:nv251@yahoo.com

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    julie taylor 8 years ago

    i have a vien in my lower leg witch has burst twice it spurts blood for 15 mins till it empyies is this dangerous

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    cb 8 years ago

    lol

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    kay 7 years ago

    im 15 and i have varicose veins it think they look ugly and i don't know how i got that at suck a younge age. i just want something heathy to make my leg look good. im in all sports and im active.

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    lola 6 years ago

    Im 15 & I exercise at least 4 days a week. I walk in the mornings,I also walk up & down stairs for at least 15 minutes. In the afternoon I do exercise my legs. I don't understand why I have varicose veins, even though I exercise :(

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    Edward 6 years ago

    I had very bad varicose veins on the back of my right calf muscle and lower leg, for the last few years (I have just passed my 60th birtday). About 3 months ago I took up weight lifting at my local gym using weight exercise machines, and bike riding on the fixed gym bikes. About a week ago my wife commented on the fact that the varicose veins had all gone, and when I checked they have all cleared up. I can only put this down to the increased blood flow caused by my exercises. I found this site by googling whether exersise can remove varicose veins, as I was not aware of the beneficial effect exercise has on varicose veins. So from personal experience I can confirm the benefits of exercise in helping to control varicose veins/.

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    jennifer 6 years ago

    I am 21 and have really bad vericose veins and spider veins i=on my lower legs, they buldge out and hurt every night but i do stand on a concrete fllor for 8 hrs and come home and take care of my sisters so i don't sit down very much.. any suggestions???

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    Dr. P. Kemp 6 years ago

    You don't get varicous veins or spider veins from wearing high heels. LOL They are hirediatary and are made worse by childbirth and injury

    Dr. P. Kemp, Toronto Ontario

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    anne 6 years ago

    hmmm i'm 16 years old and suffering to a varicose vein...ano po pwede kong gawin para matanggal to..tnx!!sana masagot niuh!!!

  • profile image

    anne 6 years ago

    hmmm i'm 16 years old and suffering to a varicose vein...ano po pwede kong gawin para matanggal to..tnx!!sana masagot niuh!!!

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    Hannah 6 years ago

    I am 14. i have small purple blue redish spider veins and they hurt really bad. i don't understand why im in basketball 24/7

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    lola 6 years ago

    hi am lola, when ever i stand for long all my veins comes out it makes my leg hurt.and at times embarasing.i need solution'

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    cupcake 6 years ago

    hi im 36 and developing some virecose veins . i cant wear my short skirts , feeling so embarrass . it looks so weird bhind my legs.

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    perla delgado 6 years ago

    hi im 16. I have varicose veis since i'm 10 or 13 yrs. i cant wear swimsuits, dresses, shorts or skirts. although I have my whole life participating in sports and other things, these varicose veins have not disappeared. it's so disappointing not to use dresses when my boyfriend likes how they look on me, these varicose veins are killing my dreams. :(

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    franz 5 years ago

    uhm, hi a need confirmation because i have these bulging veins on my legs althogh they're not really twisted they just sort of bulge, how do I get rid of them? Are they really varicose veins or do I just overwalk.... thanks for your time...

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    Prakash 5 years ago

    Hello everyone, When i walk too much in the day I often get leg pain at night.need to put balm and everything. Any idea wat is my problem.

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    Ruby 5 years ago

    Hi im 20y i have a varicose veins in my legs since i was in 17yrs old i suffer too much and i feel insecurity to all my friends wearing skirts & shorts, well infact im not often used high heels and i always do walking what should i do to remove those varicose veins really i feel hastle. I hope u will send me more tips/technique.. kindly email bezt_bems@yahoo.com plz..thank you, more power & God bless.

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    rinesa 5 years ago

    help if ant of you know how to get rid of a little bit of vains in your face if you do write a note back.{luckly ive not got them in my face} just on both sides on my face.

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    Rinesa 5 years ago

    help! I need to get rid of vains in my face but not too much nobody calls me names by the way.[luuckly i haven't got any on my legs so it means i can where dresses skirts and shorts other people who likes to wear skirts shorts and dresses well im the same in my face mabe you will have better luck next time.]

  • profile image

    Rinesa 5 years ago

    help! I need to get rid of vains in my face but not too much nobody calls me names by the way.[luuckly i haven't got any on my legs so it means i can where dresses skirts and shorts other people who likes to wear skirts shorts and dresses well im the same in my face mabe you will have better luck next time.]

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    ANONYMOUS 5 years ago

    HEY I AM 14 YEARS OLD AND AN ENJOYABLE PERSON AND LIKE TO GO SWIMMING DURING SUMMER AND HANG WITH FRIENDS AND NOW ALL DAT IS ABOUT TO COME TO AN END THIS SUMMER BECUZ OF SPIDER VEINS...I NEED HELP FAST ...I DON'T HAVE PAIN THEY ARE JUS THERE...PLZ HELP ME...I JUST WANT 2 B NORMAL...SINCERELY ANONYMOUS

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    Silver 4 years ago

    Heya - Since I was 14/15 I have suffered from both spider veins and varicose veins - sadly they run in my family. However I have found taking four brisk 15 minute walks a day has helped and rubbing apple cider vinegar on the veins also helps! Sounds weird I know but honestly it has made them a lot less visible!(:

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    keribearny77 4 years ago

    can you get them from being a dibate. Im am 35 and my feet and legs hurt especialy in the morning when i have to get up i have green blue veins on my ankles please tell me what to do all i do is take advil for pain. Keribear77

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