Expert Advice

How do I treat varicose veins?

Varicose veins can be caused by aging, genetics, pregnancy, obesity, injuries, or prolonged standing.

How do I treat varicose veins?
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Varicose veins start as surface or spider veins that get larger with time, and they often ache, itch, swell, or throb. They can be caused by aging, genetics, pregnancy, obesity, injuries, or prolonged standing.
TREATMENT: Wear support hose, which require a prescription to be fitted to your legs. Hose help collapse superficial surface veins and relieve symptoms and are best worn if you'll be standing for a long time or traveling by air or for more than three or four hours in a car. Try sclerotherapy, where veins are targeted with ultrasound, injected with lidocaine, then fired with a laser to collapse the vein. (There's no pain or incision.) This shuts down the vein, alleviates the symptoms, and helps to reduce the visibility of the vein on the surface of the skin.
PRECAUTION: See your doctor about severe cases of varicose veins, which can lead to blood clots and infections.
—Frank L. Ferrier, M.D., director of the Vein Clinic in Atlanta, Ga.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, varicose veins are considered a combination of weak qi (deficient energy flow) and blood stagnation (poor circulation). We target acupuncture points on the spleen and stomach meridians to strengthen qi and then focus on local points near the veins.
TREATMENT: Acupuncture helps reduce the size and pain of varicose veins but rarely makes them go away altogether. Chinese herbs such as bu zhong yi qi tang, san qi, and pu huang may also be prescribed. (See a practitioner to prescribe the exact dosage). Vitamin B complex can strengthen blood vessels, and pineapple, which contains the enzyme bromelain, can ease swelling and pain.
PRECAUTION: Avoid massaging near the veins as this can lead to problems should you have any blood clots. It's dangerous to move a clot into the circulatory system.
—Jill Blakeway, M.S., L. Ac., director of the YinOva Center in New York City

an HERBALIST says:
Varicose veins occur in people with poor circulation in the legs and feet. Most herbs used to treat varicose veins are high in flavonoids, which help strengthen and maintain vein walls. TREATMENT: Try 150 to 450 mg per day of butcher's broom, 500 to 600 mg per day of horse chestnut, or 50 to 350 mg per day of Pycnogenol, a plant extract made from maritime pine bark. You can also use these herbs topically in creams, or try a witch hazel tea compress. A supplement called Leg Veins by Nature's Way combines both horse chestnut and butcher's broom, among other ingredients.
PRECAUTION: Consult a practitioner before combining any of these herbs with drugs, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or using them during pregnancy or lactation. See an herbalist to discuss the best dosage for you.
—Kathy Abascal, registered herbalist and member of the American Herbalists Guild in Vashon Island, Wash.