Nearly 70 per cent of all women and 30 per cent of men will develop a venous disorder linked to poor blood circulation.

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While not the most visually appealing, the good news is that there are lifestyle changes and treatment options to prevent and eliminate varicose veins so you can go back to exposing your legs without worry. We consulted with Dr. Sanjoy Kundu, MD, medical director of The Vein Institute of Toronto and Scarborough Vascular Ultrasound, to gain more information on the causes and treatment options.

What are varicose veins?

The word “varicose” comes from the Latin word “varix,” translated to “twisted.” While some varicose veins may appear as clusters that look like spider webs, others may appear bluish and rope-like. Typically most visible on the legs and calves, some may experience pain or throbbing, but the majority will feel nothing.

Causes of varicose veins

The exact cause of varicose veins is unclear, mostly because of the complex nature of veins, the body’s blood circulation system and other external factors that may play a role. But what’s known for sure is that, while arteries pump oxygenated blood from the heart to our extremities, veins carry the deoxygenated blood back to the body’s heart. If the valves of the veins don’t function properly, blood doesn’t flow as it should. When the valves fail or leak, blood flows back through the veins causing the blood to collect or pool.

Likely contributors of varicose veins include: Family history, Pregnancy, standing for long periods of time, being overweight, natural aging process, sex and hormonal changes

Whether you have spider-like veins that are red or purple in colour and appear close to the skin surface or more serious varicose veins, don’t delay! The earlier you can address the issue, the more likely you are to prevent increased severity over time. Depending on the severity of your veins, there are treatments to consider.

Here are the five top options.

1) Lifestyle

While the natural aging process and family history are not controllable, maintaining a healthy body weight, staying active and avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time are just a few ways to reduce the appearance and risk of developing varicose veins.

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2) Topical creams

Despite little research to show efficacy, natural creams containing healing and anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as calendula flower, may help reduce varicose veins and broken capillaries. Other active ingredients, such as vitamin E, lemon, geranium and chamomile, can also be beneficial.

3) Natural support

To promote healthier blood flow and circulation, supplements containing horse chestnut are becoming more prevalent on store shelves. Along with horse chestnut, using a dry brush to promote circulation and blood flow may also be beneficial. For other natural remedies, consult with a naturopath or your local health food store.

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4) Compression stockings

Measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), gradient compression stockings and socks can help control the size of the superficial veins beneath, as well as prevent these veins from expanding with blood. According to Dr. Kundu, only purchase compression wear that’s medical grade and prescribed by a specialist. His brand of choice is JOBST due to its high quality and effectiveness.

5) Sclerotherapy

To treat surface veins, sclerotherapy involves an injection of salt solution through a small needle into the dilated or abnormal vein. The solution irritates the lining of the vein and causes it, over time, to turn into scar tissue, which will eventually be reabsorbed into the body. Performed in a doctor’s office, many veins can be injected during a single visit, and it usually takes a few weeks for healing to occur.

6) Endovenous Laser Ablation

For more serious cases, the old technique of stripping has been replaced with endovenous laser ablation (ELA), a minimally invasive technique performed in a doctor’s office with local anaesthetic. The doctor inserts a small hollow tube into the main draining vein of the leg and uses lasers to seal off the vein. With the vein sealed off, the blood is forced to flow through a secondary venous system, which relieves pressure on the bloated, abnormal varicose veins. This procedure requires no downtime and, after wearing compression stockings for weeks following, the success rate is about 90 per cent. The average cost per leg is $3,500 and not covered by most health plans.