Leg Vein Health

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Updated 10 March 2016

Top tips for healthy-looking summer legs

It's summer time but if you spend all day sitting at a desk you may be tempted to hide your legs instead of showing them off. Here are some tips for getting your legs healthy again.

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Legs are out in the open in summer. Walking on the beach. Lounging around the pool. Shopping in little skirts. Gardening in shorts.

It’s a sun-kissed look that is part of the South African way of life.

Some of us though, who spend our years sitting at a desk or standing on our feet for long periods as part of our working lives, could be looking at our legs and thinking “Help!  How do I hide them in the summer heat?” Big beauty treatment needed!

Some things that boost the look:

1. Regularly apply an exfoliator to get rid of dead skin cells and put in extra effort on feet and knees.   

2. Use a daily moisturiser. After a bath or shower, when skin is still damp, massage in a lovely rich lotion to smooth down the surface of the legs.

3. If you are going to be in the sun use a sunscreen on your legs. Don’t forget your feet which are in the direct line of sun rays.

4. Spider veins or varicose veins. Hmm, a little harder to deal with. Surgery, which may seem extreme and expensive, can be effective… 

5. Or consider herbal supplements. Their active ingredients can assist the body to alleviate symptoms like discomfort and pain of swollen, heavy legs that can be associated with chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI. (CVI is the underlying cause of spider veins and varicose veins). Many herbal active ingredients, see below, have meaningful supporting evidence of being of assistance in cases of CVI.

Chronic venous insufficiency?

Simply put, CVI occurs when the valves in the veins of the legs are damaged and don’t function properly, or because of vein blockage. As a result the circulation of blood in the leg veins returning to the heart is impaired and often there is swelling in the lower legs, known as oedema, as a result of fluid leakage. 

While the cause is still unknown, the role of a sedentary lifestyle or working posture has been reported by several researchers as influencing the development and progression of CVI. Workers who spend long periods of time sitting or standing at work do seem to be at increased risk.

Other common causes of CVI are water retention, poor circulation which is made worse in the legs because of gravity, poor diet, lack of exercise, pregnancy, illness or medication. 

Lifestyle changes:

Weight loss, if indicated, can assist. So can light to moderate physical activity, and logically, trying not to stand or sit for long periods.  

So, if sitting at a desk is what you do for five days a week, try not to sit for long stretches and instead take short breaks and walk around. Walking during the working day or as a leisure activity helps to move blood out of the veins. And whenever possible when sitting, elevate your legs. 

Some herbal therapies have meaningful supporting evidence in alleviating the symptoms of venous insufficiency and can therefore assist the body to halt further formation of varicose veins. They appear to work by strengthening the walls of veins and other vessels with the net effect of reducing fluid leakage. Studies indicate that the use of such extracts can reduce leg swelling and pain.* However there is no meaningful evidence that any herbal product can cure unsightly varicose veins that already exist.

Decongestive therapy for oedema may include decongestive massage with products containing active ingredients like menthol. There is also stocking compression therapy to support veins through the use of tight-fitting compression stockings, but it’s not really a summer thing. 

Herbal help*

Some herbs have clinical trials supporting their efficacy. In the case of red vine leaf extract, the pharmacological effect is attributed mainly to its content of flavonols. The extract as a whole is considered to be the active ingredient. A double blind trial demonstrated that red vine leaf extract is effective at relieving the symptoms and swelling associated with CVI (Kieswetter et al).  

Horse chestnut seed extract has been shown to be effective in double-blind and other controlled research supporting the traditional use of horse chestnut for venous problems (Frishman et al). The positive effect results in part from horse chestnut’s ability to strengthen capillaries, which leads to a reduction in swelling.

Steroidal saponins are thought to be responsible for the medicinal actions of butchers broom extract. These constituents are reported to improve the strength and tone of the veins and may also lead to constriction of the veins which helps blood to return from the extremities. It can also exert a mild anti-inflammatory effect (Mills and Bone). Clinical trials have shown butchers broom extract to reduce leg swelling (Vanscheidt et al). 

For further information about herbal supplement options which can support the body to relieve symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, spider veins, varicose veins and swollen legs, have a look at the active ingredients in Venavine® capsules, Venavine® Intensive Capsules and Venavine® Intensive Cream

So here’s to flirty looking legs and moving with ease this summer!



 

Ask the Expert

Leg vein expert

Dr. Riaz Motara is a specialist physician and cardiologist. He has an interest in preventative cardiology. He runs Veinsculpt, the first and only comprehensive vein clinic in South Africa, using endo-venous laser ablation as the treatment of choice.He also operates the only Women's Heart Clinic in South Africa.

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