Expert Advice

How can I get rid of varicose veins?

To ward off varicose veins, get a leg up with this advice from our trio of health experts.
How can I get rid of varicose veins?
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A yoga therapist says: Yoga is an effective protocol for preventing and treating varicose veins. The posture that is known to be clinically most effective in both cases is sarvangasana, the shoulderstand (shown), where the legs are inverted and the pressure of gravity is reversed. In this pose, the blood and the lymph drain from the lower extremities back to the heart, thereby reducing the pressure of the pooled blood in the veins. Do this pose once daily. with a recommended holding time of about three to five minutes. When you stand up, movement of these fluids in the legs is greatly improved. People with limited range of motion or high blood pressure should do the modified version of the shoulder stand: Lie on the floor and place your legs in an inverted position on the flat surface of a wall. If necessary, a small pillow or rolled towel can be placed under your neck for comfort and support.—Nirmala Heriza, cardiac yoga therapist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, Calif., and author of Dr. Yoga

A naturopath says: Varicose veins can only form if there's weakness in blood-vessel walls, or if there's significant pressure within the vein to overwhelm healthy vessels. By strengthening the vessel walls, which are made of smooth muscle and connective tissue, you decrease the likelihood they will dilate or distend. Build up connective tissue and shrink existing varicose veins by taking 2 to 3 grams of vitamin C and 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E daily (if you have a clotting disorder or take blood thinners, check with a doctor about vitamin E dosage). Botanicals such as horse chestnut, bilberry, butcher's broom, and grape-seed extract fortify connective tissue, while fruits like blueberries, elderberries, and cherries contain antioxidants that strengthen vein walls. Varicose veins sometimes lead to clotting, which can reduce the area through which blood flows and force the vessel to dilate even more. To help prevent clotting, eat foods with blood-thinning properties, such as raw onions, garlic, ginger, and cayenne.—Amy Neuzil, N.D., Austin, Texas

A dermatologist says: Several factors contribute to varicose veins: genetics, pregnancy, obesity, constipation, taking estrogen, and wearing high-heeled shoes and/or restrictive clothing. Everyone with varicose veins should seek medical treatment, since there is a 50 percent risk of developing leg ulcers or blood clots, especially after a long (car or plane trip. One procedure I use to treat varicose veins is endoluminal laser vein closure, which involves using light energy inserted with a fiber into the vein to heat the vein wall and cause it to collapse and seal closed. Bruising from the treatment disappears after a week or two, and patients can return to regular activities right after the procedure. If you have varicose veins, wear lightweight graduated support stockings, especially when you're going to be on your feet for long periods. Avoid crossing your legs while sitting, since it cuts off blood flow and increases pressure in leg veins. Don't wear heels taller than inch: When you wear high heels, you don't utilize your calf muscles enough while walking, and these muscles are responsible for pumping blood back to the heart. To circulation and vein strength, walk or do another exercise that works your legs for a half-hour every day.—Mitchel P. Goldman, M.D., Associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego