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Complementary medicine.

Byline: Dr Yvonne Casey

SHOWING off a bit of leg this summer may leave a few women slightly apprehensive - particularly if they suffer from varicose veins.

Although unsightly, there is a lot more to varicosities than just their appearance.

Varicose veins can occur in any part of the body but generally appear on the legs - the veins of the legs are the largest in the body and they carry the blood from the lower extremities upwards towards the heart.

The direction of circulation in these vessels is largely determined by gravity - although there are no actual mechanical obstacles to the flow of blood, it is usually the incompetence of the valve which leads to an increase in the pressure.

Women are three times more likely to develop varicose veins than men.

The first sign of varicose veins is a swelling along the course of the veins. This may then be followed by muscular cramps.

Patients often complain of a feeling of tiredness in the legs, usually behind the knees, which, unfortunately, can limit their tolerance to exercise.

There may also be uncomfortable itching - a condition known as varicose eczema is often to blame.

The skin commonly becomes purplish and pigmented. Varicose ulcers can cause dreadful pain, particularly when the skin is broken and the ulcer is weeping and even bleeding.

So in order to try to alleviate the discomfort and heal the problem, let's look at the risk factors and how you can avoid them.

A varicose condition of the veins results from sluggish circulation due to various reasons.

These include constipation, poor dietary habits, lack of exercise and smoking. Standing for a length of time and wearing tight clothing can also lead to circulatory deficiency.

Pregnancy can often cause varicose veins due to the increased pressure in the pelvis and abdomen, which slows down the flow of blood from the lower extremities to the heart. Obesity is yet another cause.

In the first instance, adopt a healthy, well-balanced, wholesome diet that is rich in fresh fruit and fresh vegetables as well as dried fruits.

Alcoholic drinks, coffee, strong tea, white flour products and white sugar should be strictly avoided. Raw vegetable drinks, especially carrot juice, are strongly recommended.

Vitamins C and E have also been found to be effective in the treatment of varicose veins, helping to relieve the associated pain and cramping.

Once these simple measures are employed, it is also beneficial to start taking 20 drops of aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) twice daily in a little water just after meals. Its medicinal properties have been well recognised since the end of the 19th century.

As varicose veins are extremely prone to inflammation, aesculus helps as it acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Not only this, but it tones blood vessels as well as having the ability to inhibit damage to the walls of the veins and capillaries.

Swelling or oedema is a commonly encountered feature and, again, aesculus can help, as its action includes anti-oedema properties.

Longer-term use is advisable for best results, so persevere with the treatment for at least two months to achieve maximum benefit.
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Title Annotation:Health
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 21, 2002
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