You may have seen them before; those inflated, bulgy veins on the legs of older men and women, accompanied by smaller, sprawling blue and purple veins spreading around the thicker ones. Venous disease affects 1 in 2 people, and estimates are that 50% of adults over 50 in the United States have varicose veins.

Even though most people associate varicose veins with health issues related to women, the reality is that 55% of women and 45% of men are affected by varicose veins or spider veins (telangiectasias).

The condition is harmless in most cases, and is usually treated as a cosmetic issue. However, in some cases it may be a sign of a more serious problem, such as deep vein thrombosis, and therefore should always be checked by a doctor.

As our body gets older, its natural functions begin to deteriorate. Our veins pump blood through our bodies, and the veins that return the blood upwards against gravity have valves in them that prevent blood from trickling back down to our lower extremities.

When our veins lose elasticity with age, the valves no longer work properly. As such, the blood eventually pools in our legs as the veins become too weak to pump it back towards the heart. This is why they appear thicker under the skin.

Although the specific cause for varicose veins is unknown, they are attributed to heredity, pregnancy, standing for extended periods, obesity, and other forms of physical pressure on the legs over time.

The affected areas will start to feel heavy, with swelling and itching. Another common symptom is restless leg syndrome, documented in most varicose vein cases. Once the veins are filled with blood, they will expand to a noticeable size, at which point the condition is quickly diagnosed by doctors with a standard physical exam. In other cases, doctors may request a Duplex Ultrasound or Angiogram for a conclusive diagnosis.

Treatment for varicose veins is classified in two categories: noninvasive and invasive treatment. Noninvasive treatment consists of minor procedures and lifestyle changes in diet and exercise. As this is a cosmetic issue for most people, doctors will always recommend lifestyle changes in the patient foremost, and then surgery or laser treatment if there is no improvement. Invasive treatment consists of “stripping” which is the complete removal of the vein, letting the body reroute the blood circuit to the heart on its own.

Some people prefer having a surgical or laser procedure to rid them of the condition immediately, although many natural alternatives are now available.

Let’s take a look at 5 effective ways to treat varicose veins noninvasively:

1. LEG EXERCISES

Exercising and cardiovascular health go hand in hand. Being more active is one of the most common suggestions in terms of alleviating varicose veins, however sometimes the pain may cause discomfort and demotivate us from working out. Leg muscles are an important factor in pumping blood to the heart, and therefore the stronger they are, the better the blood flow, followed by less visible veins. To reduce pain, look into low impact exercises such as leg lifts, calf raises, bicycle lifts and side lunges.

2. COMPRESSION THERAPY

Doctors will frequently prescribe compression stockings to battle the symptoms of varicose veins and increase circulation. Compression stockings are socks that squeeze your leg tightly at the foot and ankle, and gradually loosen further up the leg. There are different compression levels depending on your symptoms and how active you are.

3. DIET IMPROVEMENT

Nutritionists are experts on this topic, so a visit to your local nutritionist is highly recommended. Most will recommend a decrease in calorie intake, plenty of water, vitamin C and fiber rich foods. Other beneficial vitamins include B6, B9 and B12.

Decreasing calorie intake means losing weight, but be sure not to lose too much, as that can end up being counterproductive. This guide provides a table for proper calorie deficit. Foods that have plenty of vitamin C include strawberries, citrus fruits, papayas, and kiwi. Vitamin B rich foods such as chicken, egg, tuna, bananas and avocadoes can provide the necessary intake.

4. SCLEROTHERAPY

If you are considering procedures apart from home remedies and natural treatment, then sclerotherapy is the most common and effective way to get rid of varicose veins. Essentially, the vein is injected with a sclerosant solution similar to the texture of watered down shaving cream. The substance expands and damages the vein lining, and the body then absorbs the vein on its own over time.

The procedure takes about 10 minutes, and it is considered very effective because it also closes off “feeder veins” which are the main factor in recurrence of spider veins. Post procedure, the patient must wear compression stockings or bandages for two weeks, and walk a lot. Depending on the condition, some patients may need more than one sclerotherapy treatment.

5. ENDOVENOUS LASER TREATMENT

Many treatment centers like Varicose vein removal Whittier offer another highly effective solution. It is virtually painless, and also one of the most advanced available procedures. The technician will direct a highly focused beam of light or laser above the skin of the varicose vein, which will damage it and cause it to develop scar tissue. That, in turn blocks the blood flow in that region and the vein eventually gets absorbed by the body similarly to sclerotherapy.

Aside from the visible discomfort of varicose veins, they tend to have painful side-effects. As such, it is understandable to want to clear them out of your body as quickly as possible. Before going for the injection or laser procedures mentioned above, be sure to exercise, use compression stockings and eat healthy.

Do you have any effective treatments you’ve heard of or discovered for varicose veins? Please post your own list below!

Luca Tofan is a Canadian freelance writer living in Colombia. He likes to write about a variety of topics including travel, health, lifestyle and business.