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What the Yuck: Ugly varicose veins
October 21st, 2011
09:35 AM ET

What the Yuck: Ugly varicose veins

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I'm in my 30s and I already have ugly varicose veins in my legs. Why did I get them, and how can I get rid of them?

As we age, the valves in our leg veins become weaker, allowing blood to leak backward and pool, leading to those lovely blue and purple bulges. Pregnancy and hormonal shifts (like those caused by being on the Pill) can increase your chances of getting ’em, as can having family members with the same affliction (thanks, Mom!).

Varicose veins tend to be harmless, though they may cause aches and pains—and if you have redness or swelling, see a doctor, as this could indicate a blood clot.

The most effective (if not very sexy) way to prevent new varicose veins from forming is to wear compression support stockings, which can also ease any discomfort.

Other tips to try: Get more exercise, try not to sit or stand for long periods (and don’t cross your legs when you sit), and avoid clothes that are super-tight in the waist, groin, or legs.

Unfortunately, these moves won’t erase those twisty bluish adornments for good - for that, you’ll need to see a vein specialist.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. lou stools

    why not compare and contrast the various methods for treatment? sclerotherapy, laser, etc?

    October 21, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. G

    I have a leg phobia due to varicose veins, I can't help but notice very obvious varicose veins, cellulite, and other imperfections. It's so gross and ugly, very disgusting and disturbing. Thank god for Winter. YUK. There are herbs for this. Working out really helps. Reminds me of lectures in the OR during surgery, shift legs during long surgeries, that way you can improve circulation and avoid getting varicose.

    October 21, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Consensus

      Herbs? Ridiculous. If herbs actually worked, that's what we'd be using to treat varicose veins.

      October 21, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • G

      Some herbs do work for improved circulation. Just like eating a banana will stabilize your potassium and help with bowel movements. NAturally, some people are genetically prone to be varicosed.

      October 21, 2011 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
    • Consensus

      Varicose veins aren't caused by "poor circulation". And herbs aren't going to help make them disappear or prevent them from occurring.

      October 21, 2011 at 21:34 | Report abuse |
    • Aleksandra

      I was very uncomfortable when I had varicose veins after my 2nd pregnancy. i was also afraid of operation and painful treatment. One of my friend recommend me USA Vein clinic and now I feel like a new person. Very good treatment with painless technology. I would like to recommend you http://www.usaveinclinics.com/

      Thanks

      February 13, 2013 at 06:14 | Report abuse |
  3. Little Hippo

    are varicose veins the same as spider veins?

    October 21, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Angio

    You have poorly functioning valves in the leg, usually the great saphenous vein. Have the veins treated with Endovascular laser. Done in 40 minutes. Screw wearing compression stockings all the time... And no, herbs aren't going to work.

    October 21, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LAUF

    This condition is on the rise because of the bare leg fasion statment. Hosery with at least some compression will help stave off and/or help the condition. If left unchecked it can require medical help (surgery) and then the heavy compression hose. and this applys to men as well as women.

    October 21, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      My grandmother had horrible varicose veins, yet she wore stockings most of her life.

      October 23, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  6. lulu

    I have 2 relatives who got laser treatment for varicose veins and both had terrible luck with it, had more surgeries and big mess on their legs. Research carefully before getting them treated.

    October 21, 2011 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • deanna

      lulu, I too was told that I could rid my varicose veins and spider veins with laser, and not have to have them dissappear temporarily (as mentioned elsewhere here), I seeked out the best doctor in Beverly HIlls, Oh yes he said, the laser will make them gone for good! That'll be $300 please. These were on the side of my cheek, weird place and ppl would always look at them instead of my eyes, so I decided to have the laser treatment. OMG! Not only did it NOT work, but months later I developed a hugh brown age spot right over the area as well. ( only 40ys old!) Now, I have both, the spider veins and the brown spot! It was a waste of time and money, and the Doctor was/is a complete phoney!

      October 23, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse |
    • barb

      My daughter had the laser treatment and ended up worse than she was when she had it,so beware.

      October 24, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse |
  7. 1nohojen

    G – I've heard bananas are constipating!

    October 21, 2011 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ramrod

      Bananas are not constipating. On the contrary, they make you go. Try it, you will not be sorry.

      October 22, 2011 at 11:03 | Report abuse |
    • Ramrod

      By the way, bananas are herbs. Quoting from WIKI "Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red."

      October 22, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse |
    • Consensus

      Doesn't matter what you call them-they won't make varicose veins disappear and they won't keep them from developing, either.

      October 22, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
    • donna

      banana makes me constipated!

      October 23, 2011 at 19:27 | Report abuse |
    • Carnivore

      Does banana make you troll, too?

      October 23, 2011 at 21:37 | Report abuse |
    • Mad-jax

      It all depends on which end you put the banana.

      October 24, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse |
  8. godofredo29

    Thanks for the gender-skewed information. Where does a guy go for health information around here? I mean, guys get varicose veins too. This bias is best blamed on Elizabeth Cohen who once expressed disgust when reporting that a new breakthrough procedured for implanting ovaries was based on a similar procedured involving testicles. Librarians: Check out Gymperdee's new blog at http://gymperdee.blogspot.com.

    October 22, 2011 at 05:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BioHzrd420

      Take off your filtered glasses. I didn't take this article as gender-biased. Maybe instead of stocking she could have included socks, but 95% of the article could apply to anyone.

      October 22, 2011 at 08:38 | Report abuse |
  9. Thinquer

    Me auld mother from Ireland gave me surgical support hose to wear during my pregnancies. They were not beautiful, bu they
    worked. Now my 30 yr old daughter, who chose not to wear them, has varicose veins, but at age 51 I do not. LIsten to your mother.... :) Surgical support hose during pregnancy. Love you!

    October 22, 2011 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Consensus

      There are many women who've never been pregnant yet suffer from varicose veins, Thinquer. And at 51, you aren't home free yet. Try not to be so smug.

      October 22, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
    • i call BS

      I have varicose veins and have never been pregnant. I have a job that requires me to stand most of the day. In addition, my mother had varicose veins. The doctor told me they're hereditary and that people who stand a lot are prone to develop them. Support hose wouldn't have prevented them and they won't help now that I have them, either.

      October 22, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      I started getting spider veins and varicose veins when I was 12. I've never been pregnant. Some of us are just genetically predisposed to develop them and nothing would have prevented them for me.

      October 23, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse |
  10. Clair

    Is anyone else taken back by the overwhelming disgust toward woman's bodies as it relates to "veins"? HELLO?!?! We're human, it happens. If youre so focused on what both men and women's legs look like as they age, you have nothing better to do. Embrace yourself and your body or you'll never be happy with yourself.

    October 23, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      I agree. This unnatural obsession with perfection is really destroying society. People are having affairs simply because their partners no longer look like supermodels, leaving their families... it's horrifying. People who say they're "disgusted" by a little natural cellulite or varicose veins will never be able to deal with their spouse aging. Sad.

      October 23, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • i call BS

      It's not disgust that made me get my legs treated-it was discomfort. However, the improvement in appearance is hardly an unwelcome benefit. And what do you care if someone doesn't want to continue having varicose veins and would like to get them treated? Do you object to them going to a hairdresser or manicurist, too?

      October 23, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
  11. deanna

    I'm surprised the good Doctor didn't recomment that you see a dermotogolist (sp). I used to see one every 4-6 months for varicose veins, and spider veins, they simply inject a clear solution (forgot what the medical term is) directly into the vein and you can actually see it dissappear, its only temporary but in 4-6 months your legs look fantastic! And I never had any side affects, the only draw back was it can be expensive. It depends on how good you want your legs to look, and how important it is NOT to see ugly veins, or anyone else to notice them. I had a very professional job where I wore suits and dresses and one had to look good.. But, try this, it works!

    October 23, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mrs x

    I am 35, and have had terrible varicose veins since I was 16. I am a healthy weight, exercise, etc. It is a genetic predisposition. I hate the way my legs look, and have tried sclerotherapy and laser treatments. Absolutely nothing has worked and they have continued to spread. I am very self conscious about my legs, which is a shame-I am 5'9" and would love to show them off! :) I spend most of my life in pants, but swimsuit season is a challenge. To those of you who find them unattractive and unsightly-so do we. There isn't anything we can do about them, so we've learned to live with it. You should too.

    October 23, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veindoc

      What you need to do is look into endovenous ablation. Go to VNUS.com and locate a physician in your area. I have performed over 1500 procedures in the last six years. Typically you will have no down time and minimal pain with treatment.

      October 24, 2011 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I am a 39 year happily married guy to a wonderful, supporting wife, with 4 children. About 5 years ago, I had the VNUS treatment done.Like the Doc said, it is basically painless procedure. Local anistetic is used on areas of the leg getting the treatment. You are awake during the treatment. I had an ulcerated vein that would not heal. Bad veins run bad on my moms side. Since the treatment, and because of the areas I had worked on, I must wear waist legnth support hose or tights. I mostly wear tights as they are more durable. Had I known before hand, I would have worn some before the veins got so bad. It is my hope that men and women will realize the need to wear hosiery before it becomes too late. Too bad there is such a social phobia when a man wears legwear. In order to promote leg health, my wife and I often wear with shorts, weather providing. I also have several of my vein doctors cards. Because of my condition, the proceedures were covered under insurance.

      October 25, 2011 at 23:55 | Report abuse |
  13. donna

    I have purple lumps on my asss is that vericose vein?

    October 23, 2011 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carnivore

      No. Those are signs of Satanic possession, idjit.

      October 23, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
    • Stale mate

      Are you sure it's your ass and not your face?

      October 24, 2011 at 05:48 | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    This article doesn't distinguish between males and females when it comes to varicose veins, which it good, because men are nearly as susceptible to them as women. I'm a man, and I started getting the beginnings of them in my late 30s. At the suggestion of my doctor, I took up wearing support pantyhose to keep them from getting worse. Support socks weren't helpful, both because of the constricting elastic band just below the knee and because some of my troubles were above the knee. Anyways, I'm now 51 and my veins haven't worsened apprciably in the intervening years. Also, in the mean time I discovered that there are companies that sell pantyhose (aka, mantyhose) made especially for men, so guys need not get accustomed to wearing Leggs Sheer Energy if they don't want to. They've made a big difference in my life, as I don't have achy, tired legs at the end of the day and can still do things on my feet after I come home form work. In fact, I currently work in a warehouse on my feet all day long. If it weren't for the support hose, there's no way I could take it.

    October 24, 2011 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Easy, yet difficult

    I've heard that you can "walk (or run)" varicose veins away. Of course, this is exercise... mentioned in the article and other comments.

    October 24, 2011 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Hange

    While there are variations in likelihood of having the condition due to genetics, the fact of the matter is that having healthy muscles and good circulation go a long way in preventing the condition. Many have commented on it here and I'll say it again: exercise, exercise, exercise. While this won't help the varicose veins that you already have, it will greatly decrease the likelihood of new ones. Get on a good regimen: some light weights, running/walking, squats/lunges – just keep those muscles nice and hard.

    October 24, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. jujubeans

    "can increase your chances of getting ’em". I would expect a journalist to spell out the word "them".

    October 24, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. tcvs

    As a vascular surgeon who specializes in the treatment of venous disease, I can say that there are many good treatment options available, some covered by insurance and some not (cosmetic). But unfortunately, there are many "vein specialists" who dont really know what they are doing, just looking to make $$$. If you are concerned, you should see a VASCULAR SURGEON who specializes in vein disease. Go to "Vein Affiliates" website for a list in your state/area. Like many medical treatments, results may vary by patient, but overall, a skilled and experienced vascular surgeon should be able to get you 90% improvement (or better).

    October 24, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carnivore

      Can you give me any insight on Vein Clinics of America? Are they a legitimate treatment option? Or just a scam?

      October 24, 2011 at 21:00 | Report abuse |
  19. Joe123

    I developed varicose veins early in life. By the time I was in my early 30's they had gotten progressively worse and very uncomfortable. I chalk it up to bad genetics as both parents have them and I am a very active person. I didn't want to deal with them for the rest of my life so I saw a vascular surgeon who performed a laser ablation procedure and ambulatory phlebectomy. Ultimately, it fixed the large bulging veins in my legs, but replaced them with many unsightly small scars and one very large scar from a surgical complication. Results were not exactly what I was hoping for in terms of appearance but legs no longer feel heavy and swollen when standing for extended periods. Scars are fading over time (4 years since procedure). Anyways, just wanted to share my experience. Make sure you understand what you are getting into. Also, make sure you select an experienced dr with a good track record. I went with a fairly young surgeon and wonder if some of the surgical complications could have been avoided with a more experienced physician.

    October 24, 2011 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. sean kings (@goflyguys)

    One of the main points that I have learned when it comes to veins is that one of the most common questions asked is how to get rid of spider veins and everyone that asks that should know that there is a solution. It all depends on where you find your physicist and how you go about by seeking out your treatment.

    November 1, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Varicosities Vein

    nice blog... thank you for the post....

    July 5, 2012 at 07:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jennifer

    I got my varicose veins removed at the usa vein clinics in Brooklyn, NY. I had a great experience there. The staff was very kind and helpful. My procedure only took about 15-20 minutes and I did not experience any pain at all. Besides that my veins are gone now, my insurance even paid for 100% of the cost! There are a lot of different treatments and surgeries out there these days that supposedly say they remove varicose veins for good, but most of those don't work. I know for a fact that what I got at the usa vein clinic worked. So far so good, a few months later and they are still completely gone!

    December 5, 2012 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. ambermiller

    Providing you the most affordable and permanent laser & hair removal treatment by the Brandeis Medical Center. They use only lasers systems which was designed specially for the safety and effectiveness of the hairs. For more information you can visit our website. http://www.brandeismedicalcenter.com/

    January 4, 2013 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. William

    I've had varicose veins for many years, I am afraid of operation and painful treatment. Please let me know if you know any clinic with painless treatment or natural method treatment.

    February 12, 2013 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Aleksandra

      Hi William, I was very nervous going to my first appointment. After arriving all the staff made me feel very comfortable so I would like to thank the staff for helping me through it. The procedure was painless and took no time at all. I appreciate all the help given. I will recommend this clinic to others that are in need of help.

      http://www.usaveinclinics.com/

      February 13, 2013 at 06:08 | Report abuse |
  25. Wendy

    Aleksandra, I am totally agreed with you. I was affected by varicose veins after my 2nd pregnancy. Then I was recommended to USA Vein Clinic and now I feel like a new person.A big thank to USA Vein Clinic. William I am strongly recommend you this clinic. Treatment is totally painless.

    Thanks

    February 15, 2013 at 07:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Frances Ann

    I am looking for a surgeon to remove a very painful varicose vein. A skilled vascular surgeon is what I think I need, but I am unsure. Can anyone recommend someone or point me in the right direction?

    Thank You,

    February 17, 2013 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Frnaces

      Hello Guys, Let me share my experience with you. I was affected by varicose veins, I am glad that I decided to go USA Vein Clinic. I was very nervous but staff made me very comfort. Very clean office, Good office. I was able to have the procedure done the same day as my appointment.Now I feel like a new person. I would like to recommend USA Vein Clinic to all who are affected by spiders veins.Thanks for help. :)

      February 20, 2013 at 23:51 | Report abuse |
  27. Kate

    I want to recommend USA Vein Clinic to all who are affected by weird spider veins. Same day procedure by appointment. Covered by Insurance. I was affected by spiders after my 4th pregnancy. Then I was contacted to USA vein clinic. Clean office, very good service, I felt very comfortable. Thanks to USA Vein Clinic. Now I feel like a new person.

    February 20, 2013 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Biljana

    I'm pregnant and I have developed varicose veins. Can I have surgery?

    February 22, 2013 at 05:10 | Report abuse | Reply

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