Varicose veins are quite a common problem. According to the US National Library of Medicine, it is estimated that about 20% of all adults will get varicose veins at some point in their lives.(1)
In this condition, abnormally enlarged veins appear close to the surface of the skin.
These usually occur in the calves and thighs when the veins develop weakened walls or poorly functioning valves, which regulate blood flow.
Although this problem is more common in older people, young people may also develop varicose veins. Chronic venous insufficiency and mild varicose veins are more common in men than women.(2)
Varicose veins occur when veins aren’t functioning properly, and they can be due to several reasons, such as:
- Age (over 50)
- A family history of the condition
- Standing for prolonged periods
It also commonly affects middle-aged males required to work standing for prolonged hours.(3)
Other common factors contributing to varicose veins are:
- Use of birth control pills
- Hormonal changes in the body
- A sedentary lifestyle
Even a previous leg injury may damage the valves in a vein, which can result in varicosity.
The most common symptoms of varicose veins are highly visible, misshapen veins, usually on the legs. The appearance of dark-blue or purple bulging veins as a result of this condition is a concern for many people.
The patient may also experience symptoms such as:
- Skin discoloration
- Burning, throbbing, or tingling sensation
Here are a few tips that can help you prevent and manage varicose veins:
- Exercise on a regular basis.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid excessively tight clothing.
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods.
- Try not to wear high-heeled shoes for long periods.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, self-care measures are sufficient to manage this condition. However, it is recommended that you seek medical attention if:
- The skin over the affected veins becomes flaky, prone to bleeding, discolored, or ulcerated.
- The varicose veins are warm, red, and tender.
- The varicose vein gets injured.
- There is excessive bleeding.
- The bleeding doesn’t stop.
- Symptoms get worse.
- Self-care measures do not work.
Medical and surgical options for the treatment of varicose veins can be quite expensive. In a 2007 study published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, researchers pointed out that patients should consider the cost and expenses of conventional surgery before opting for it.(4)
Patients can try some home remedies to decrease the severity of varicose veins and reduce some of the discomforts they can cause.
Here are the best home remedies for varicose veins.
1. Compression Stockings
It might be a good idea to invest in compression stockings if you are suffering from varicose veins.
Wearing compression stockings will help the veins and leg muscles move blood more efficiently. This, in turn, will reduce the symptoms of varicose veins. A 2018 study published in the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery found that among patients with varicose veins, graduated elastic compression stockings seem to be effective in ameliorating symptoms, particularly pain or aching, compared with placebo stockings. The patients used knee-high compression stockings with a pressure of 18 to 21 mmHg for one week.(5)
A 2004 study published in Dermatologic Surgery found that calf-length compression stockings with a pressure range between 11 and 21 mmHg are able to reduce or totally prevent swelling in the legs due to long periods of sitting or standing.(6)
The level of compression required varies for different patients. However, most types of compression stockings can easily be found at any drugstore.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful remedy for the treatment of varicose veins. It is a natural “body-cleansing” ingredient that also improves blood flow and circulation. When the blood starts flowing naturally, the heaviness and swelling of varicose veins will decrease significantly.
A 2016 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that the external application of apple vinegar on patients with varicose veins, which is a very easy application, increased the positive effects of conservative treatment.
In this study, patients suffering from varicose veins were asked to apply apple cider vinegar on the affected area and keep it covered using a cloth for about half an hour, two times a day for 1 month, along with the doctor’s treatment. On completion of the test, the statistical data showed that the patients who followed this remedy experienced a decrease in pain, fatigue, edema, itching, pigmentation, and cramps compared with those who were not asked to apply the vinegar.(7)
- Apply apple cider vinegar (undiluted) on the skin over the varicose veins. Massage the area gently. Do this every day in the morning and before going to bed. Follow this remedy for a few months to reduce the size of varicose veins.
- Alternatively, you can add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 1 glass of water and stir well. Drink the mixture twice a day for at least one month to reduce the varicose veins.
According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, sitting or standing for long periods without moving around much is associated with an increased risk of varicose veins and other forms of blood pooling.(8)
To reduce the risk of and help treat varicose veins, remaining physically active is a must. Exercise also helps in balancing the hormones naturally, losing weight, or maintaining healthy body weight. All these can help in preventing and treating varicose veins.
Exercise increases the muscle strength, stimulates the flow of blood, and enhances the circulation. This relieves the pain and other complications and thus promotes healthy veins.
Light exercises help in getting the calf muscles working without excessive strain. Some of the most effective low-impact exercises include swimming, walking, cycling, and yoga.
In a 2010 study published in the World Journal of Sport Sciences, researchers recommend following a systematic sports activity (such as walking) to activate blood circulation, in order to prevent the vulnerability of expectant women to varicose veins.(9)
A 2016 study reports that aquatic exercises were capable of improving aspects of the quality of life and reducing pain, demonstrating that they benefit patients with chronic venous disease.(10)
4. Avoid Prolonged Sitting and Standing
A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2005 reports that prolonged standing at work contributes to an increased risk of hospital treatment due to varicose veins.(11)
One of the best ways to prevent varicose veins is to not stand or sit for long periods and to avoid sitting with your legs crossed, as it puts terrible pressure on the veins. Also, when you are resting, try to keep your legs elevated. This applies especially to pregnant women.
It is recommended to elevate your feet above the level of your heart three or four times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. Elevating your legs can help reduce leg swelling and relieve other symptoms.(12)
If you need to sit or stand for a long period of time and elevation is not possible, try flexing (bending) your legs occasionally to help keep blood circulating. If you’re sitting for a long period of time, get up and walk about every hour.
5. Horse Chestnut Seeds
Horse chestnut seeds are an age-old remedy for the treatment of varicose veins. Horse chestnut seeds are packed with anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling properties that can effectively increase “venous tone” and, in turn, reduce the appearance of varicose veins.
Horse chestnut seed extract consists of a compound called aescin that helps in improving the elastic strength of veins and preventing the release of enzymes that damage the capillary walls.
A study published in Advances in Therapy in 2006 reports that the fresh-plant horse chestnut seed extract preparation Aesculaforce offers a real alternative in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate venous insufficiency.(13)
A 2012 review of clinical studies published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine found that horse chestnut extract is an effective short-term treatment for symptoms of varicose veins. The study reveals that aescin appears to promote blood circulation through the veins and thereby reduces swelling and inflammation of the legs.(14)
Another 2015 study confirms the effectiveness of the use of horse chestnut seed extract or aescin as a treatment for chronic venous insufficiency.(15)
- Horse chestnut seed gel is readily available and can be purchased easily. Use the gel externally on the affected area twice daily. When used on a regular basis, it can considerably reduce leg pain and swelling.
- You can also take horse chestnut supplements. The most common dosage is 300 mg twice daily, standardized to contain 50 mg hospitalization per dose, for a total daily dose of 100 mg escin.
- Varicose veins: Overview. Informed Health Online. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279247/. Published July 13, 2016.
- Evans CJ, Fowkes FG, Ruckley CV, Lee AJ. Prevalence of varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency in men and women in the general population: Edinburgh Vein Study American Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1756838/.
- Mulla SA, Pai S. Varicose veins: a clinical study. International Surgery Journal. http://www.ijsurgery.com/index.php/isj/article/view/822. Published 2017.
- Subramonia S, Lees TA. The Treatment of Varicose Veins-ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964550/. Published March 2007.
- Kakkos SK, Timpilis M, Patrinos P, et al. Acute Effects of Graduated Elastic Compression Stockings in Patients with Symptomatic Varicose Veins: A Randomised Double Blind Placebo Controlled Trial. European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1078588417306421. Published November 10, 2017.
- Partsch H, Winiger J, Lun B. Compression stockings reduce occupational leg swelling. Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15099316. Published May 2004.
- Atik D, Atik C, Karatepe C. The Effect of External Apple Vinegar Application on Varicosity Symptoms, Pain, Social Appearance Anxiety: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4735895/. Published January 2016.
- Varicose Veins. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/varicose-veins.
- Rabea MM. Effect of Walking Intervention Program on Varicose Veins … World Journal of Sport Sciences . https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267835382_Effect_of_Walking_Intervention_Program_on_Varicose_Veins_among_Pregnant_Women. Published 2010.
- Aquino, Santos MAdos, Vieira LC, et al. Analysis of the effects of aquatic exercise on the quality of life of people with a chronic venous disease. Jornal Vascular Brasileiro. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1677-54492016000100027&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en.
- Tuchsen F, Hannerz H, Burr H, Krause N. Prolonged standing at work and hospitalisation due to varicose veins. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1740939/. Published December 2005.
- Elevation of the legs. Stanford Health Care (SHC)-Stanford Medical Center. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/blood-heart-circulation/varicose-veins/treatments/elevation-legs.html.
- Suter A, Bommer S, Rechner J. Treatment of patients with venous insufficiency with fresh plant horse chestnut seed extract: a review of 5 clinical studies. Advances in Therapy. https://www.ncbi.nih.gov/pubmed/16644618. Published 2006.
- Underland V, Sæterdal I, Nilsen ES. Cochrane Summary of Findings: Horse Chestnut Seed Extract for chronic venous insufficiency. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3833478/. Published March 2012.
- Dudek-Makuch M, Studzińska-Sroka E. Horse chestnut–efficacy and safety in chronic venous insufficiency: an overview. Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0102695X15001003. Published June 29, 2015.