What to look for
Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins – usually blue or dark purple – but they may also be lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance. Although any vein in the body can become varicose, they most commonly develop in the legs and feet, particularly in the calves, as standing and walking puts extra pressure on the veins in the lower body.
They develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. In a healthy vein, blood flows smoothly to the heart and is prevented from flowing backwards by a series of tiny valves that open and close to let blood through.
If the valves weaken or are damaged, the blood can flow backwards and collect in the vein, eventually causing it to be swollen and enlarged (varicose).
Apart from the unsightly physical appearance there may be no other symptoms at all, but you can also experience the following:
• aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs
• swollen feet and ankles
• muscle cramp in your legs
• dry skin and colour changes in the lower leg
It doesn’t seem fair but women are more likely to develop them than men and hormone levels are not the only risk factor for varicose veins. Other factors below can also increase the likelihood you will develop a few of these visible veins at some point during your life.
- family history of the condition
- occupations that involve long periods of sitting and standing
- weight gain
- a sedentary lifestyle
Happily varicose veins are not often a serious health problem. They may not look nice, but should not affect circulation or cause long-term issues and do not generally require any treatment.
The first step your doctor will suggest is you try up to six months of wearing compression stockings, taking regular exercise and keeping the affected leg up as much as possible.
If you are one of the unlucky few who do require further treatment you may be treated with one of the following:
• endothermal ablation – treatment where heat is used to seal affected veins
• sclerotherapy – this uses special foam to close the veins
• ligation and stripping – this involves surgery to remove the affected veins
If you have no serious problem, but find the veins unsightly, it is very unlikely you’ll receive treatment from your GP but may have to pay for private treatment.
How to help yourself
Unfortunately there is not much you can do to prevent them, but some simple ways to ease the symptoms include:
• avoiding standing or sitting still for long periods and trying to move around every 30 minutes
• taking regular breaks throughout the day, raising the legs on pillows while resting to ease discomfort
• exercising regularly – this can improve circulation and help maintain a healthy weight
The role of progesterone in helping
It’s those fluctuating hormone levels again, as during menopause, oestrogen and progesterone levels both drop, and the risk of varicose veins risk increases.
If you wish to use bioidentical progesterone for varicose veins you would want to adapt the normal application routine as you want to apply progesterone cream more frequently directly on to the areas of your body where blood vessels are close to the surface of your skin. In other words, to the thinner skinned areas of your body.
Using the thin skinned areas mean that it goes more directly and quickly into your blood stream instead of passing through the fat layer where it is taken up gradually by red blood cell membranes in capillaries passing through the fat layer and then on to the progesterone receptors.
This means uptake is a little slower but progesterone stays longer in your system, but for quicker results you would apply to thin skinned areas more often than to the fatty tissue, but still try to maintain a reasonable rotation.
To get progesterone directly into your blood steam thin skinned areas are the face and neck, palms of your hands and soles of your feet, vaginally, inside your arms and inside thighs.
Any area that tends to ‘flush’ indicates blood vessels are close to the surface and to ensure sufficient rotation of the application sites you can also include behind the knees, on the temples, back of the neck, and inside of wrists.