Easing Vericose Veins During Pregnancy
This Guest post graciously submitted by Dr. Eddie Chaloner
How can varicose veins be eased during pregnancy?
Varicose veins are a common problem during pregnancy and are particularly troublesome during the last 3 months when the enlarging uterus restricts the vein blood flow out of the legs. The symptoms varicose veins cause are mainly aching of the legs towards the end of the day and swelling of the ankles along with feelings of tiredness and heaviness in the legs.
Occasionally varicose veins can become acutely painful and tender and this is called ‘phlebitis’. Whilst phlebitis is a ‘self limiting’ condition (in other words it gets better on its own), it can be very painful for several weeks and can frequently recur. It is caused when an area of damaged varicose vein develops a clot inside it and then an area of inflammation around it.
Phlebitis can be treated by use of anti-inflammatory gels or tablets. Because it is generally best to avoid medication during pregnancy, gels are the preferred method of treatment as the active drug is applied directly to the sore area and the dose used is a lot lower than the equivalent tablet that would be swallowed. An ice pack on the area or a bag of frozen peas wrapped up in a towel can also help to reduce the soreness and swelling as well.
Because operations during pregnancy are generally best avoided due to the risk to the baby, doctors will usually try to manage the veins without operative treatment until the pregnancy is over. This generally means using compression type stockings for the duration of the pregnancy.
Stockings help the blood to go back up the leg by squeezing the leg slightly (compression). It is important that the stockings are properly made to allow a gradient of compression to be exerted on the leg – in other words the stockings should be tightest at the ankle then gradually less tight as they go up the leg – this means that the blood is gradually squeezed up the leg against gravity. If the stockings are of low quality they may not be graduated – in other words they may not provide the gradient of compression needed to propel the blood up the leg and are then of little use in helping varicose veins.
If the stockings are not fitted properly they will tend to fall down the leg and can bunch up behind the knee – this is actively bad as it can restrict the flow of blood up the leg and make things worse not better! Keeping stockings up can be a real challenge during pregnancy. The better quality stockings have ‘grip tops’ around the thigh area which can be quite effective, but other options include the use of suspender belts or tights in the later stages of pregnancy – there are a wide selection of pregnancy related compression wear available online these days.
Once the pregnancy is over the varicose veins will usually get a lot better although sadly the damage to the valves in the veins does not repair itself and most patients need to have some sort of surgically treatment to correct them and prevent recurrence in subsequent pregnancies
Eddie Chaloner is a consultant vascular surgeon at Radiance Health, a clinic in London, which specialises in the treatment of Varicose Veins, Thread Veins, and DVT. Eddie is one of the leading authorities on vein treatment, having been the first surgeon in London to use the EVLT method, and the first surgeon in the UK to use the new Clarivein technique.