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Varicose and other vein problems - self-care

The blood flow is slow from veins in your legs back to your heart. Blood tends to pool in your legs, especially when you stand. As a result, you may have:

  • Varicose veins
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Skin changes or even a skin ulcer in your lower legs

These problems usually get worse over time. Learn self-care that you can do at home to: 

  • Slow down the development of varicose veins
  • Decrease any discomfort
  • Prevent skin ulcers

Alternate Names

Venous insufficiency- self-care; Venous stasis ulcers - self-care; Lipodermatosclerosis - self-care

Wear Compression Stockings

Compression stockings help with swelling in your legs. They can gently squeeze your legs to move blood up your legs. 

Your health care provider will help you find where to buy these and how to use them.

Make Time to Exercise

Do gentle exercises to build muscle and to move blood up your legs. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Lie on your back. Move your legs like you are riding a bike. Extend one leg straight up to the sky and bend the other leg.  Switch your legs.
  • Stand on a step on the balls of your feet. Keep your heels over the edge of the step. Stand on your toes and let your heels drop below the step. Stretch your calf. Do 20 - 40 repeats of this stretch.
  • Take a gentle walk. Walk for 30 minutes four times a week.
  • Take a gentle swim. Swim for 30 minutes four times a week.

Put Your Feet up

Raising your legs helps with pain and swelling. 

  • Raise your legs when you are resting or sleeping.
  • Raise your legs above your heart three or four times a day for 15 minutes at a time. 

Do not sit or stand for a long time. When you sit or stand, move your legs every few minutes. 

  • Bend and straighten your legs.
  • Keep the blood in your legs moving back to your heart.

Take Care of Your Skin

Keeping your skin well moisturized helps it stay healthy. Talk with your health care provider before using any lotions, creams, or antibiotic ointments. Don’t use: 

  • Topical antibiotics, such as neomycin 
  • Drying lotions, such as calamine 
  • Lanolin 
  • Benzocaine or other creams that numb the skin 

Watch for skin sores on your leg, especially around your ankle. Take care of sores right away to prevent infection.

When to Call the Doctor

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if: 

  • Varicose veins are painful 
  • Varicose veins are getting worse 
  • Putting your legs up or not standing for a long time is not working 
  • You have a sudden increase in pain or swelling 
  • You have a fever, redness in your leg 
  • You get leg sores

Updated: 8/25/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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