Venous disease - treatment options

Ratgeber Venenleiden und Wassereinlagerungen in den Beinen

The widespread disease venous disease

Studies show that today, almost 50 percent of the population suffers from venous disease at some point in their lives. It is one of the most common diseases in the United States and Western Europe and can affect people of all ages. Adequate treatment is therefore important and can even be achieved with the help of natural products. 1

Every day, our body has to pump several thousand liters of blood from the feet upwards towards the heart against gravity. This is the job of the veins. However, more and more people are complaining about tingling, swollen and heavy legs or varicose veins and water retention. The reason for the high susceptibility to these types of venous disorders lies in human evolution, in upright walking. This is because blood collects in the feet and legs and builds up there if there is no movement, as the veins cannot work properly. Over the course of life, the blood vessels of almost everyone change. Often, changes in the veins are not immediately noticeable at first, then they stretch out and become weak. Complex mechanisms enable unrestricted vein function. If these processes are disrupted, significant problems can arise. For example, a lack of exercise due to long, intensive sitting in an office job can lead to heavy and swollen legs. The reason for this is the lack of activation of the calf muscles, which are responsible for the return transport of blood with the help of the calf muscle pump and lose driving power due to stagnation. The delay in the return transport of blood to the heart can then lead to various illnesses.

The function of the veins

The body must continuously supply all of its cells with oxygen and a variety of nutrients. The human circulatory system is responsible for this supply and the transport of oxygen. This consists of the arterial and venous systems. The cells are supplied with oxygen by the oxygen-rich blood that is distributed from the heart through the arteries. The veins have the task of pumping the used, oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. However, unlike the arteries, they do not have the heart as a pump. In the case of the veins, this role is taken over by the muscle-venous pump in the leg. When moving, such as when walking, the tension in the muscles compresses the veins in between, which pumps the blood back to the heart. The venous valves prevent the blood from flowing back and act as a type of valve. They resemble a type of small sail that is anchored in the vein wall and meets in the middle of the vein, closing it. Around 80 percent of all the blood in the human body is in the veins, which therefore serve as the most important blood storage facility. In addition, the body uses veins to regulate heat. In cold temperatures, the veins contract, preventing the body from losing heat through the skin. In hot temperatures, the veins expand and the heat can be released into the surrounding air.

Symptoms

In most cases, venous changes are not visible at the beginning and only become noticeable in later stages. A typical symptom that indicates a venous disorder is weak, tired and heavy legs. A certain feeling of tension can also occur, especially at the end of a long day or in the warm summer months. In addition, nighttime calf cramps can be a sign that the veins are not working properly. In addition, the lower legs and ankles often swell and form water retention (edema). Itching can also occur on the lower legs and ankles.

diagnosis

In most cases, venous weakness begins with a reduction in the elasticity of the veins. This means that the vein walls cannot withstand the pressure of the blood within and begin to overstretch. In the expanded veins, the venous valves can no longer close properly and the blood can no longer be transported back to the heart optimally. Due to the constant blood congestion, the venous vessels also become increasingly permeable and fluid leaks into the tissue. This typically manifests itself in water retention (edema) in the legs.


Different forms of venous disease:

Varicose veins: Varicose veins, also known as varicosities, are enlarged superficial veins. They occur in around 20 percent of the population, sometimes to a greater or lesser extent. They mainly appear on the legs. They can be recognized by bluish-colored twists under the surface of the skin. The venous valves of the enlarged vessels no longer close properly, which means that the blood flows back and then accumulates. This creates even greater pressure and the veins expand further.

Spider veins : Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are fine veins that are visible on the upper layer of skin. Compared to varicose veins, however, these are relatively small and only a small amount of blood flows through these vessels. For this reason, blood congestion is minimal and in most cases does not cause serious problems. However, they can still be treated for aesthetic reasons.

Phlebitis: Phlebitis describes a local inflammation of a superficial vein. It is often caused by varicose veins or spider veins (see above). The reason for this is the formation of clots, which promote phlebitis. On the other hand, these can also be caused by inflammation of the vein. When inflamed, the affected part of the vein is noticeably red, can swell and is overheated. In addition, the affected area is often very sensitive to pain.

Water retention due to weak veins: Water retention, also known as edema, occurs when fluids leak from the vessels into the surrounding vessels and collect there. Such edema can occur throughout the body, but is most commonly found in the legs due to gravity. The most common reason for the development of edema is weak veins, as water leaks out of them and settles in the vessels in the leg.

Causes

The causes of venous diseases can be very diverse and vary. On the one hand, uncontrollable factors play an important role. These include, for example, age, gender and hereditary predisposition.

Other factors that contribute to venous disease include:

  • Smoke
  • Lack of exercise
  • Long periods of sitting, standing
  • Hormonal contraception
  • Menopause
  • pregnancy
  • Injuries to blood vessels
  • Lack of fluids
  • Wrong diet

All of these components can lead to an impairment of the calf muscle pump. In addition, the vein walls can become weakened. This also disrupts blood flow and causes venous disorders.

Treatment

Venous diseases should always be taken seriously. In the early stages, they can be treated with the help of herbal remedies, exercise or a change in diet. Dehydrating measures help against swelling in the legs and ankles. If the symptoms worsen, a doctor should be consulted promptly. You can also take preventive measures against venous diseases, but only to a limited extent, as the diseases are often hereditary.

Natural treatment options/home remedies to strengthen veins

1. Movement

Exercise can reduce the susceptibility to venous disorders and alleviate symptoms. This activates the muscle pumps and supports the work of the venous valves. When venous disorders occur, the general rule is: walk and lie down instead of sitting and standing. If you have to sit a lot, for example because of an office job, you should pay attention to correct sitting posture and take regular exercise breaks in your daily work routine. Quiet sports with flowing movements are particularly suitable for people with venous disorders. These include gymnastics, swimming & aqua jogging, hiking, cycling or inline skating. Jerky sports that require a lot of effort and extra weight should be avoided, as these can have a negative effect on the course of the disease.

2. Compression

Another treatment option is all types of compression. These include compression bandages, medical compression stockings or support or anti-thrombosis stockings. The compression creates pressure from the outside, which causes the veins to be compressed. This causes the venous valves to close again and the blood can return to its natural flow speed and direction. This method is particularly recommended for advanced venous disease or for longer periods of sitting or standing.

3. Herbal remedies

Sweet clover: Hippocrates (460 to 370 BC), a famous doctor from ancient Greece, already mentioned sweet clover and its healing properties. Its leaves were used in folk medicine, especially for external use, for ointments and bandages/plasters and were said to help against bruises, rheumatism and joint pain. Meanwhile, sweet clover is an important medicinal plant due to its special effects. The active ingredients it contains are made up of flavonoids, glycosides and mucilage. There are also coumarins. These are the main active ingredient in sweet clover. It is said to have a positive effect on problems caused by venous insufficiency. In the case of inflammation of the veins and varicose veins, symptoms can be alleviated and combated by substituting sweet clover.

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Rutin: An active ingredient that is only found in the plant kingdom is contained in various amounts in numerous plants, for example in berries, apples, cherries and citrus fruit peels or in green and black tea. It acts as a protective substance against microorganisms and UV rays. For humans, rutin has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect and is therefore also counted as an antioxidant. It is therefore said to protect skin cells and connective tissue. Rutin is also used for vein problems. The rutosides help to thicken the vein walls, which can reduce the capillary permeability to water. Blood circulation is stimulated and they promote the reduction of swelling from water retention in the legs. Studies also prove the effect of rutin in the treatment of venous disorders. Buckwheat tea containing rutin was used. The subjective complaints in the study group were less than in the control group and a slight reduction in the vein diameter was recognized. 4

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Horse chestnut: The horse chestnut grows on a large tree and consists of a spherical, greenish capsule covered with soft spines and the small brownish seeds inside. These also contain the active ingredients of the chestnut. The seeds of the horse chestnut contain a lot of saponin in a complex mixture. One of the parts of the saponin is aescin. Laboratory tests show that aescin has anti-inflammatory effects and can thicken the walls of blood vessels. However, taking horse chestnuts to treat venous disorders only has an effect on mild symptoms. A review compared 17 studies on the effect of horse chestnuts on varicose veins. The results showed that substituting horse chestnut extract promoted blood circulation in the veins and thus reduced swelling and inflammation in the legs. The scientists said they did not know exactly how the aescin worked. But it is believed that it closes the walls of the veins and increases their elasticity. 2

Red vine leaves: After several laboratory tests, researchers have attributed a positive effect on vein function to the extract of red vine leaves. The reason for this is said to be the flavonoids contained in the plant. In one study, rapid edema formation was chemically simulated and red vine leaves were used for treatment. The flavonoids in the plant enabled the damaged capillary wall to recover. This means that a general biochemical interaction between flavonoids and inflammatory mediators can be demonstrated.3 Studies have also found a measurable reduction in leg circumference after 6 to 12 weeks of treatment with red vine leaves. In addition, red vine leaves also improved other complaints such as a feeling of heaviness in the legs, a tendency to swell, itching or pain when standing. Overall, the effect of red vine leaves is similar to that of horse chestnuts.

Nettle: Disdained as a "pesky weed", nettle actually has many positive aspects for us humans. It offers many different uses as it contains a high proportion of minerals and vital substances. The effect of taking nettles is said to stimulate the metabolism, have a diuretic and uric acid laxative effect, which can be attributed to the osmotic effect of the plant's high potassium content. This creates a dehydrating effect that can help with venous disorders or thrombosis symptoms. However, flushing therapy to treat edema caused by reduced heart or kidney function is not recommended. 6

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Conclusion

Venous diseases or venous weakness are therefore an acute widespread disease and affect a large number of people. However, the veins can be actively strengthened as a preventative measure and in the case of minor complaints.

The following natural measures are of great importance:

Movement:

  • “Vein-friendly” sports
  • Quiet sports
  • Flowing movements
  • Running and lying instead of walking and standing
  • Correct sitting posture

Compression:

  • Wraps/Bandages
  • Compression stockings
  • Leg wrap

Herbal remedies :

  • Sweet clover
  • Routine
  • buckeye
  • Red vine leaves

Important: This guide is intended as a source of information only. Always consult your doctor if you have acute problems. Under no circumstances should you change the dosage of your medication or stop taking it yourself.

Sources

1. Prof. Dr. Stephan Nees, Munich; Dr. Anke Esperester, Ingelheim am Rhein: "Venous diseases on the rise. Experts demand: Chronic complaints be treated appropriately, Hamburg, May 11, 2011, organized by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG, Ingelheim.

2. Pittler MH et al., Horse chestnut seed extract for long-term or chronic venous insufficiency, Cochrane, December 2012, (Horse chestnut seed extract for long-term or chronic venous insufficiency)

3. Nees S, et al. Protective effects of flavonoids contained in the red vine leaf on venular endothelium against the attack of activated blood components in vitro. Pharmaceutical Research 2003;53:330-341.

4. Nees S. Pathological regulation of endothelial barrier functions in the venous wall. Vasomed 2007;1:31

5. Ihme, N. et al. (1996): Leg oedema protection from a buckwheat herb tea in patients with chronic venous insufficiency: a single-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Clin Pharmacol. 50(6):443-7.

6. Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists. (no date). Nettles in phytotherapy. Retrieved from Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists - Website: https://www.apotheker.or.at/internet/oeak/newspresse.nsf/e02b9cd11265691ec1256a7d005209ee/cffbda1023f992ecc12578a400335983?OpenDocument


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