How can I prevent varicose veins on my legs?

Varicose veins affect 50 percent of adults and many forms of treatment are being used with considerable success. But, as always, prevention is better than cure.

Increasing numbers of women appear to be suffering from varicose veins. This is ironic, for it comes at a time when we have more knowledge about preventive treatment than ever before.

It is nothing new that varicose veins are a family problem. If parents have them, there is an increased risk of the children being similarly affected later on.

These tendencies are greatly augmented if the person subsequently becomes overweight, or is subjected to prolonged standing. Pregnancy is notorious for aggravating varicose vein formation, for it impedes the normal blood flow from the lower limbs into the body.

Advancing years can also accelerate the trouble. It seems that the small valves contained in the superficial vessels beneath the skin readily break down with age and the lack of adequate support from surrounding muscles.

Varicose veins are a widespread problem. In fact, Lancet (an English medical journal) recently claimed in some surveys that as many as 50 percent of an adult European population suffered from the complaint.

In another survey in Basel, Switzerland, nearly 5000 healthy working adults between 20 and 70 years (average age 47) were examined. Twenty-five percent of the women and 19 percent of the men had vein problems of some degree. Just over one percent had ulcers.

Once varicose veins have become established, treatment gives varying results – not always ideal.

In severe instances, where the vessels are knotty, tortuous, and are causing gross discomfort, surgery may be recommended. This is frequently the most effective treatment, the results often excellent.

In the past sclerotherapy has been popular. It is simpler, quicker, and cheaper to carry out. But the long-term results are not good. Up to five years, follow-up studies have shown surgery and sclerosing therapy are equally satisfactory. Over the five-year check, the long-term cure-rate with sclerosing therapy falls to 35 percent. It remains around 80 percent for surgery.

In sclerosing, a special fluid is injected into the vein, which causes the walls to corrode and stick together, so blocking the canal. But recanalization can occur so often that, as a single form of therapy, it is no longer popular.

With surgery, there is always a risk factor. This means if the undertaking is being done for greater beauty, it warrants second thoughts. Lancet claims “complications of varicose vein surgery are few and usually minor.” However, it then reports five fatalities after 106,000 operations in which sclerotherapy was carried out, and 18 deaths after 87,000 operations in which the varicose veins were removed, or “stripped” as surgeons say.

In general, it is the appearance of varicose veins that disturbs, but unpleasant symptoms are common too, and if recognized early relief can be given.

The most common symptoms include an uncomfortable burning sensation, even pain, and cramps in the affected limbs. Limb fatigue often occurs, more so in women whose daily routine involves many hours standing on hard surfaces, such as concrete floors.

Here, the simple use of elasticized stockings is recommended for moderate varicose veins. Many excellent varieties are about, including a brand with an expanding pantyhose top designed for use during pregnancy. Elevating the legs at right angles against a wall while lying on the back can also give worthwhile relief after a long day of standing.

Massaging, with a sweeping motion, helping to drain the blood from the lower part of the limb toward the body, can give relief when symptoms occur.

However, the most significant discovery in recent times is that a diet containing fiber may play a valuable part in preventing varicose veins. It is also advocated for patients with an established problem.

One to three tablespoonful of simple unprocessed bran added daily to the morning cereal is often adequate.

This reduces the transit time of material passing through the bowel system, lessens the build-up of pressures, and in turn, it is claimed, cuts down tension on the vein system in the lower part of the body.

The conclusion follows the close observation of primitive civilizations where coarse food and a high fiber intake are normal. These peoples showed a virtual absence of vein problems.

The Lancet and the British Medical Journal printed several reports that backed up this finding.

One surgeon in Africa reported only 11 vein operations in a total of 25,000 over a period of years.

Another surgeon in Zambia reported none in a series of 5000 operations – a striking contrast to the exceedingly high proportion in Western hospitals.

In Peru, only three cases were seen in over 2000 patients.

Less than two percent of patients suffer from them in India.

Collectively, all follow a similar dietetic routine in which fiber plays a major role, for as yet these races have not learned to process their foods as we Westerners have.

So, as an all-round form of treatment, simple unprocessed bran may ultimately hold the key to the quelling of a widespread problem.

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