Varicose veins are swollen, bulging and twisted bluish veins that become visible just beneath the skin surface. Varicose veins are of two types – Superficial Varicose Veins and Deep Varicose Veins.
Superficial varicose veins are visible on the surface of the skin and can be painful and disfiguring but are generally harmless. Superficial varicose veins are surrounded by network of filled capillaries. When they get swollen, they can hinder circulation to the extent of causing swollen ankles, itchy skin, peeling skin and pain in the limb.
Deep varicose veins have an effect on the deep venous network. They are generally not visible from outside but can cause inflammation and pain throughout the leg. Blood clots can form at the site of varicosities. Deep vein inflammation in the thighs and pelvis can lead to pulmonary embolism which can be a fatal condition.
Varicose veins are considered as a vata problem in Ayurveda.
Causes of varicose veins
Any condition that puts excessive pressure on the veins makes them dilated and twisted. They commonly affect the legs and feet although they can appear anywhere. Haemorrhoids are also varicose veins. Some causes of varicose veins are
- Standing for long periods of time
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Tight clothing
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic Tumours
- Excessive physical activity that puts pressure on the legs
- Ageing leads to loss of skin elasticity as well as thinning of veins
- Dietary deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalance during pregnancy and menopause in females
Preventive measures and treatment
Prevention plays a major role in the treatment of a varicose vein because there is always a possibility of recurrence. In superficial and mild cases of varicose veins, alternative therapy and herbal treatments are best. In severe cases, vein stripping or surgical removal of varicose veins is adopted but it should be again noted that treatment of a vein cannot prevent new veins from becoming varicose so it is important to adopt measures for future prevention.
- Regular exercise to keep leg muscles toned and to improve blood circulation
- Control over weight
- Diet should be low in fat, sugar and salt
- Drink plenty of water
- Quit smoking because smoking leads to increased blood pressure and this worsens varicose veins
- Wear support stockings
- Foot elevation while sitting or resting for long periods of time
- Elastic support stockings can be used to relieve discomfort
- Vitamin E oil application is advisable but do not rub it too deeply into the legs.
- In case of varicose veins, put your feet up a few inches above heart level to assist backpressure of blood from legs
- Alternate hot and cold baths
- Stop contraceptive pills
- If pregnant, sleep on left side rather than back
- Protein-rich diet is important for building up the tissues
- Include whole food grains in the diet, instead of synthetically polished ones
- Mixture of carrot and spinach juice daily suffices vitamin deficiencies in the legs
- Fresh fruits like amla (embelica officinalis) and other citrus fruits are essential since vitamin C deficiency is a prime cause of varicose veins.
- Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is recommended as the best herb in ayurvedic treatment for varicose veins. It provides the necessary nutrients required for the proper toning of the veins and makes them less tortuous.
- Garlic (Allium sativum) can break down the protein content in the body and distribute it evenly. This increases the protein supply to the lower limb region. Hence, the condition of varicose veins can be prevented. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) like garlic breaks down and distributes the protein in the body. Onion (Allium cepa) helps in the proper assimilation and distribution of protein in the human body. It is said to increase inner strength.
- Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) and Guggul (Commifera mukul) are highly recommended to improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation.
Besides herbs, there are other classical ayurveda medicines which used for treating varicose veins e.g. Jasad bhasma, Chandraprabha vati, Punarnavadi guggulu.
Regular massage with ayurvedic oils like Prasarini oil and Chandanabalalaakshadi oil is helpful but care must be taken never to massage any oil directly on the varicose veins, as it would increase pressure on them.
Yogic exercises as well as simple exercises like walking, swimming, cycling and stretching the legs while sitting on a chair can treat varicose veins without any medication. Halaasan, Pawanmuktasana and Sarvangasasna promote blood circulation and drainage of blood from legs.