Karen van der Berg
We have all seen it. Those conspicuous blue varicose veins that sometimes are clearly visible on people’s legs. In general varicose veins do not hold any health risks, yet it is not something to be ignored.
What precisely is it, what causes it and how should it be treated?
Dr Andries Nel, a doctor in Pretoria, says varicose veins are generally caused due to an accumulation of blood when you sit and/or stand for a long while. Other significant reasons are “obesity, smoking, a lack of exercise and hormonal birth control”.
“For most people varicose veins are a big cosmetic problem. Especially women with a fair complexion are deeply embarrassed about it. That is why it is treated. Usually it is not something to be concerned about, but varicose veins should not necessarily be ignored.”
He says varicose veins are caused by the legs being tired, swelling and general discomfort. “It can also be a warning sign of long-term health risks, among which blood clots, weak circulation and swelling of the legs,” says Nel.
When should you consult a doctor?
“It is always a good idea to consult a doctor when your legs feel heavy and painful at the end of the day. Also consult a doctor should the varicose veins bulge out or are sensitive to the touch.”
Pregnancy and varicose veins
Nel says pregnancy causes increased pressure against the main artery that drains blood from the lower half of the body. In certain body positions the foetus can block the blood flow.
The extra production of hormones during pregnancy also causes the arterial muscle to relax, which increases the arteries’ storage capacity and tendency to expand. This in turn increases the risk of varicose veins and spider veins.”
Nel says exercise is definitely the best way to prevent problems with arteries, therefore add it to your list of reasons to exercise more or climb more steps. Simple press-ups can help. ”Strengthen and exercise your calve muscles throughout the day by simply pressing yourself up on the balls of your feet and down again.”
“There is no proven way of preventing the occurrence, except professional treatment, although some patients use make-up to cover prominent veins.”
He says there are ways of preventing painful symptoms:
“Compression stockings or knee-high, thigh-high and middle-high sizes may be worn.”
He says people often feel varicose veins is an insignificant condition and there is really no reason to consult a doctor.
“You know your body the best. If you find it to be an embarrassment, or if you think it could possibly harbour health hazards for you, it is always advisable to discuss it with your doctor.”