Varicose veins

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Varicose veins affect 20-25% of women and 15% of men.


  • Prominent dark blue veins, especially in the legs and feet
  • Fatigue, leg discomfort (tight, tired)
  • Fluid retention, feelings of heaviness
  • Aching legs, relieved by elevation

Varicose veins are usually fairly obvious and bulge out from under your skin. The superficial veins are visible and swollen or "knotted". They are painful and can affect your circulation but they are usually more unsightly than harmful.


The blood flowing down the legs to the feet is assisted on its way by gravity, but the blood flowing up to the heart needs to work against the force of gravity. In order to prevent the blood collecting at the bottom of the legs, the veins contain valves which help to propel the blood up towards the heart.

When there is damage to the valves in the blood vessels of the legs, and/or the vein walls, the blood pools and the veins develop their familiar bulge. The blue colour associated with varicose veins is due to the reduced amount of oxygen in the blood as it returns to the heart.

One of the most common causes of varicose veins is standing up for long periods of time, which allows the effects of gravity to cause a pressure build-up in the blood vessels. Other people may have a hereditary predisposition to a weakness in the vein walls.

Other factors that increase the likelihood of varicose veins include:

  • Constipation (haemorrhoids)
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Injury

Diet and lifestyle

Regular massage from a trained massage therapist can significantly alleviate discomfort associated with varicose veins, and help to stimulate blood flow. (If you have a history of conditions associated with blood clots, massage therapy is contraindicated for you - discuss your concerns with your healthcare professional before proceeding).

For itchy skin around the varicose veins, try a lotion or ointment made of witch hazel.

Take up regular aerobic exercise such as walking to improve the circulation and get the blood pumping. Always discuss a new exercise programme with your healthcare professional before starting.

Finish a shower or bath with cold water for as long as you can stand it. Many people find that this helps to relieve the pain from varicose veins. You can also do the same thing with foot spas or compresses.

Take regular rests and/or stretch breaks if your routine requires that you remain on your feet for long periods of time. Try to avoid wearing the same shoes every day - it's a good idea to vary the heel height, but avoid high heels as they can aggravate the problem.

A diet high in natural fibre and complex carbohydrates helps prevent varicose veins by providing adequate nutrients to maintain the health of the blood vessels, and by maintaining bowel regularity, thereby reducing the likelihood of constipation.

Quit smoking. Smoking is a major cause of free radical damage which affects the health of the blood vessels.

If you're pregnant, sleep on your side rather than on your back. This lessens the pressure on your pelvic muscles.

Important notes

Consult your healthcare professional if...

  • The pain and swelling suddenly becomes severe
  • You have red varicose veins
  • You cut a varicose vein - see a healthcare professional immediately
  • You develop a wound in the varicosed area that is slow to heal.

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Hi Valerie,
Thank you for you post.
I’m sorry to hear that you are suffering from blood clots.
I think the best thing for you to do at this point would be to see your GP, and discuss your concern about blood clots with the doctor.
All the best
Charmaine (Blackmores Naturopath)
Charmaine 13 Jun 2014
recovering from tear gluteal tendon. having problem with superficial blood clots on lower right have varicose veins there but have never had any problems before. am in 70's. should I try grapeseed and where can I get this. thank you
Anonymous 13 Jun 2014
Hi Lyn,
I’m sorry to hear about your achy legs. Firstly, it’s important to establish why your legs are aching. Do you have varicose veins (they are usually visible)?

When inflamed, varicose veins can cause tenderness and aching in the affected area. Another cause of front, lower leg pain includes shin splints. Shin splints may result from inflammation due to injury of the tendon and adjacent tissues in the front of the outer leg.

If you do have shin splints, lying on your back with your legs in the air, either resting up a wall or with your legs resting above you on a chair. This may help to ease the pain of varicose veins. In the longer term, avoid wearing high heels and avoid sitting with your legs crossed. Nutrients such as calcium fluoride, silica and vitamin c are all useful for strengthening connective tissue and may be helpful in addressing varicose veins.

Always seek the advice of a health care professional for both diagnosis and treatment recommendations to find which therapy or remedy works best for you.

All the best Lyn. I hope you find some relief soon. Leanne (a Blackmores naturopath)
aching front of legs...varicose veins?
How can I ease the pain please?
Anonymous 04 Nov 2013