Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan
BACKGROUND: Pregnancy is presumed to be a major contributory factor in the increased incidence of varicose veins in women, which can in turn lead to venous insufficiency and leg oedema. The most common symptom of varicose veins and oedema is the substantial pain experienced, as well as night cramps, numbness, tingling, the legs may feel heavy, achy, and possibly be unsightly. Treatment of varicose veins are usually divided into three main groups: surgery, pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments. Treatments of leg oedema comprise mostly of symptom reduction rather than cure and use pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches.
OBJECTIVES: To assess any form of intervention used to relieve the symptoms associated with varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancy.
SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (October 2006).
SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised trials of treatments for varicose veins or leg oedema, or both, in pregnancy.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Both review authors independently assessed trials for eligibility, methodological quality and extracted all data.
MAIN RESULTS: Three trials, involving 159 women, were included.
VARICOSE VEINS: One trial, involving 69 women, reported that rutoside significantly reduced the symptoms associated with varicose veins (relative risk (RR) 1.89, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11 to 3.22). There were no significant differences in side-effects (RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.13 to 5.79) or incidence of deep vein thrombosis (RR 0.17, 95% CI 0.01 to 3.49).
EDEMA: One trial, involving 35 women, reported no significant difference in lower leg volume when compression stockings were compared against rest (weighted mean difference -258.80, 95% CI -566.91 to 49.31). Another trial, involving 55 women, compared reflexology with rest. Reflexology significantly reduced the symptoms associated with oedema (reduction in symptoms: RR 9.09, 95% CI 1.41 to 58.54). There was no evidence of significant difference in the women's satisfaction and acceptability with either intervention (RR 6.00, 95% CI 0.92 to 39.11).
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Rutosides appear to help relieve the symptoms of varicose veins in late pregnancy. However, this finding is based on one small study (69 women) and there are not enough data presented in the study to assess its safety in pregnancy. It therefore cannot be routinely recommended. Reflexology appears to help improve symptoms for women with leg oedema, but again this is based on one small study (43 women). External compression stockings do not appear to have any advantages in reducing oedema.
Plain language summary
Not enough evidence on treatments for varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancyVaricose veins, sometimes called varicosity, occur when a valve in the blood vessel walls weakens and the blood stagnates. This in turn leads to problems with the circulation in the veins and to oedema or swelling. The vein then becomes distended, its walls stretch and sag, allowing the vein to swell into a tiny balloon near the surface of the skin. The veins in the legs are most commonly affected as they are working against gravity, but the vulva (vaginal opening) or rectum, resulting in haemorrhoids (piles), can be affected too. Pregnancy seems to increase the risk of varicose veins and they cause considerable pain, night cramps, numbness, tingling, the legs may feel heavy, achy, and they are rather ugly. Treatments for varicose veins are usually divided into three main groups: surgery, pharmacological treatments and non-pharmacological. The review identified three trials involving 159 women. Although the drug rutoside seemed to be effective in reducing symptoms, the study was too small to be able to say this with real confidence. Similarly, with compression stockings and reflexology, there were insufficient data to be able to assess benefits and harms, but they looked promising. More research is needed.Cochran Library