DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have varicose veins on both of my legs. I wear only long dresses and slacks to hide them. My legs don’t hurt, but I would like to be rid of these veins. What can I do for them? At this point, I am not interested in surgery. — L.H.
ANSWER: Leg veins face a Herculean task. They have to return blood to the heart in the face of gravity, which works to keep blood from moving upward. They couldn’t accomplish their task if they didn’t have valves. As blood moves upward in the vein, its valves close so that it can’t fall back down. The problem with varicose veins is a valve problem. Their valves no longer work. Blood stays in the leg veins, distends them and stretches them out of shape — varicose veins.
Varicose veins can make the legs ache or cause them to tire quickly. Sometimes, the pooled blood leaks fluid out of the veins, so the ankles and feet swell, and open ulcers — most often around the ankle — might form. And then there is the cosmetic aspect, about which I’m not qualified to comment.
Things you can do for varicose veins are limited but worth trying. One is compression stockings. The very best stockings are the ones with graduated compression, with the compressive force greatest in the lowermost part of the leg and with lesser force in the upper parts of the leg. Compression moves blood upward. Another way to keep blood from pooling is lying down with your legs higher than your heart. That position empties blood out of leg veins. Admittedly, you can’t spend the entire day with your legs elevated, but elevate them as often as you can. Never stand for long in one place. If you have to stay still, contract your calf and leg muscles to push blood out of the legs.
Should you change your mind about surgical vein removal, you should know that today there are many methods of getting rid of these veins. Endovascular lasers, radiofrequency catheters and sclerotherapy are recent-vintage techniques. Surgical removal has been refined to the point that most patients return home on the day of operation.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have mucus that drains down into my mouth and throat constantly. I hope you can off er some help for me. — H.E.
ANSWER: You’re describing postnasal drip, the irksome trickling of mucus into the back of the mouth and throat. It is thick, gluey and tastes awful. The mucus often comes from chronically infected sinuses.
Try saltwater irrigation of the nose to clear up some of this mucus. Boil some water, and into a cup of boiling water add a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Let the water cool. With a bulb syringe, available in drugstores, gently flush both nostrils.
Before going to bed, take a drug that contains both an antihistamine and a decongestant. Drixoral Cold and Allergy Tablets is one such drug. It can slow the trickle at night, when it’s usually at its worst.
You might have to enlist the help of an ear, nose and throat doctor, who can inspect your sinuses and tell you if you need more intensive treatment.
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