VARICOSE VEINS and other circulatory disorders (Page1 of 2)

What is circulation?

In order to understand what can go wrong in the body, it is vital  know how it functions. As a doctor, I have spent many years learning how the heart works and how arteries and veins operate, and what they do. However, I appreciate that what has become second nature to me might not be so to everyone else. I will try, therefore, to explain what circulation is, what can go wrong with it and, most importantly, how homeopathy can help. I will discuss three problems of the venous system ('veins') and three problems of the arterial system ('arteries'). 

So what is 'circulation'? The heart is basically a powerful bag of muscle, which by alternatively expanding and contracting, acts as a pump. Each cycle of expansion and contraction forms a single heartbeat, which we feel as our pulse. The blood circulating around the body and head comes through large veins ('vena cava') in to the right side of the heart. The right side of the heart is divided in to two, an upper and a lower chamber (or space) divided by a one-way valve. As the heart squeezes, or contracts, the blood is pushed through this valve and out into the lungs via a blood vessel known as the pulmonary artery. The blood then passes through the lungs where it absorbs oxygen and, now full of oxygen, returns to the heart via the pulmonary vein and in to the left side of the heart, into the upper chamber first and then in to the lower chamber. It is then squeezed out into the aorta, which is the large artery leading from the left side of the heart. The blood then passes around the body and head, releasing its valuable oxygen load, before returning via the vena cava to start the whole process all over again.

The reason why blood is fundamental is that oxygen is needed by every living tissue and cell, in order for it to grow, repair and reproduce. Oxygen makes blood bright red which is why blood taken in routine blood test at hospital or the doctor's is a dark red colour.

So now we have explained how the pump works, and the reason for the pump but what are the arteries and veins? Well, the arteries are like the big brothers of the circulatory family. They are strong and have relatively thick, muscular walls, which are hard to stretch but better at maintaining pressure. They are able to cope with fluctuations in pressure, caused by the contraction and expansion of the heart but if put under too much pressure, they will start to build up their muscular walls, rather like an athlete or body builder does when muscles are asked to do extra work. This makes them harder to stretch and therefore increases the pressure within the arteries, which we measure as 'blood pressure'.

The veins are the little brothers with thinner walls and with little muscle. They cannot hold pressure in the same way as arteries and linking the arteries to the veins are small arteries known as arterioles. These become smaller capillaries which then become venules (small veins). These in turn join together to form veins. Once the blood is back into the veins, the pressure has dropped so that the venous system is one of low pressure. In order to help the blood supply return to the heart from the lower half of our body, which means it must work against gravity, there are small one way valves in the veins of our legs which we will discuss later.

Therefore we have a pump with a network of veins and arteries keeping us healthy and alive but unfortunately things can go wrong…

Varicose veins

These are very common and can be either be inherited from our parents or acquired. They are often seen as a bit of a joke but to any one who has them, they are not particularly funny. They give rise to troublesome symptoms such as swollen ankles, tired, aching legs and sore, hardened areas of skin. Gradual failure of the one way valves in the legs mentioned earlier due to increased pressure on the venous system in the legs leads to the blood not being pumped back to the heart so efficiently. This means that pressure is put on those simple valves, which sometimes give up the ghost completely and fail. When they do, they lead to the veins becoming stretched and contorted, which in turn give rise to the familiar raised, knobbly varicose veins. Pregnancy, constipation and standing for long periods of time all put extra pressure on the veins in the pelvis, which in turn affects the lower leg. They can be associated with inflammation in the varicosities ('phlebitis') or eczema around the lower calf and ankle ('varicose eczema').

Conventional treatment relies on blocking the veins where the valve has failed and allowing undamaged veins in the area to take over. This can be done by injection or by physically 'stripping' the damaged veins out surgically. However, there are several homeopathic options to try before the situation becomes too severe.
Pulsatilla is a very commonly used remedy, due to its affinity for circulatory disorders; especially those associated with pregnancy. This does not mean that male members of the population can not use it! Reasons to choose pulsatilla for the treatment of varicose veins include the facts the symptoms being all right one day but not the next. People who do well with pulsatilla often tend to be mild-mannered who avoid arguments if they can. It should be appreciated that these are generalisations and are only meant as a guide when treating very physical symptoms, such as varicose veins.

Calc.carb would be my second choice of homeopathic remedy for varicose veins. Whereas pulsatilla tends to suit people who are generally warm-blooded and prefer to have fresh air in their homes, those requiring calc.carb are definitely chilly, with markedly sweaty feet. They hate damp conditions or damp weather, but, like those needing pulsatilla, tend to be mild in manner, perhaps verging more to the shy side or slightly nervous.

Another useful remedy, related to calc.carb is
Calc.fluor. This is particularly effective where there are hardened, knotty varicosities of the veins, especially after phlebitis. An almost specific remedy for varicose veins and piles is Hamamelis, or witch hazel. Sulphur can be used when there is ulceration and irritation of the varicosities, such as in phlebitis or varicose eczema. One of the key symptoms for choosing sulphur is 'must scratch until it bleeds'.

© Dr Jenifer Worden 15.2.06  Page 1 of 2 - Please click here for Page 2

Dr Worden gained her Membership of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998, which is the statutory NHS UK body covering this field of complementary medicine.



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This page last updated 03/08/06

Dr Jeni Worden currently practices Homeopathy at the Highcliffe Clinic, near Christchurch, Dorset UK.