By Frank Will, Contributing writer

Can varicose veins actually be slowed or even prevented in some cases by using vitamins and minerals? There are two sides of this argument; the conventional medical side and the non-conventional side.

Although it has taken several years for some in the medical community to recognize how vitamins and minerals can assist with several diseases and conditions, they are slowly starting to recommend supplements in fighting varicose veins. The other side has held this belief for quite some time, but in the final analysis, there is only one opinion that matters -- yours.

However, before you make your decision, it is very helpful to fully understand what this condition actually is, as well as the symptoms, causes, and some of the potential dangers.

What are they?

There are several actual definitions of what varicose veins are, but the McGraw-Hill Science and Technology dictionary describe them as an enlarged tortuous blood vessel that occurs chiefly in the superficial veins as well as the tributaries in the lower extremities of the body. It is also refers to this condition by another name; varicosity. They can technically affect any vein in your body, but in the vast majority of cases they will affect your legs and feet. Spider veins are also commonly associated with this condition, and for most people, especially women, it is primarily a cosmetic concern.

However, there are also people in whom this condition can become quite painful and discomforting, as well as some where it can develop into more serious problems. Varicose veins can also be early warning signs of other types of circulatory issues, and if they become serious enough, you may have no other option than to have them removed. In the vast majority of cases, they do not cause pain, but they are still a problem for you.

The first signs usually begin with the veins in your legs starting to turn blue or purple in color and will appear as it they are twisted and bulging in appearance. If they do begin to become painful, your legs will then start to ache and feel extremely heavy. They may also start to throb, burn, as well as swell. Cramping in your legs can very easily follow any of these signs as can itching on or around the twisted veins.

However, if you see any type of a skin ulcer near your ankle, it has now gone way past just an inconvenience and this sign requires immediate medical attention.

Spider veins are quite similar to varicose veins; they are just smaller and are usually closer to the surface of your skin. Spider veins also occur primarily in your legs, but they can develop in your face as well. There are several potential causes of this condition, but the most common cause is standing on your feet for extended periods of time. Age can also be a factor as your veins start to become weak, as well as pregnancy.

When you become pregnant, it increases the volume of blood in your body but it also decreases the flow of the blood to both your legs and pelvis. This is not by accident, but rather by design, as it helps to support your growing fetus but it very easily causes you to develop varicose as well as spider veins. If you are dramatically overweight, it can also very easily trigger this condition.

Vitamins and Minerals

The veins' major function is to carry your blood supply to all parts of the body. Your heart pumps blood to your lungs, where it picks up oxygen and then travels back to the heart. Once it is there, it is pumped back out into the arteries where it helps to deliver oxygen to all parts of your body. It performs this job function with extreme force and when the blood starts to make its return back to your heart, it does so through your veins. In some cases, your veins cannot handle the same amount of force that your arteries do, and when they cannot, it can result in bulging or varicose veins.

Because of this, your veins need backup support, and the first form of support comes with Vitamin C. Your body needs this nutrient to manufacture two extremely important tissues; collagen and elastin. These are considered connective tissues or fibers that are used to repair, as well as maintain, your veins. These tissues not only help to keep your veins strong, they do something equally as important -- they keep them flexible. If you start to develop spider veins, it is an indication that your capillaries may be breaking and you need this vitamin to help repair them. Bioflavonoid, which is a chemical compound that is found in the same food sources that contain vitamin C, is also critical to this process. Vitamin E is also suggested in some circles in fighting varicose veins for one very important reason; it helps to keep your blood flowing properly. Vitamin E assists in keeping your blood platelets, as well as your blood components that are involved in the clotting process, from sticking together. However, if you have had any type of a stroke or a bleeding disorder, do not take this vitamin until you have discussed it with your physician as it may cause complications.

The mineral copper is also essential for combating varicose veins as it helps to tighten the connective tissues collagen and elastin. Vitamin C starts the process; copper finishes it. It is also very active in the cross-linking of the molecules in your body that make up the connective tissues, and a copper deficiency can easily cause both your arteries and veins to become weak. In this process, it helps to prevent any potential rippling or tearing by strengthening the inside lining of your proactive cells, as well as reducing the chances of it leaking, which can result in varicose veins. There are also two critical B vitamins, B6 and B12, which are essential in your battle against this condition. Your endothelial cells help in the development of new blood vessels from existing blood vessels, and in doing so, they help to break down and clear out homocysteine from your blood. A deficiency of either of these B vitamins can lead to very high levels of homocysteine, which in turn, can lead to heart disease.

If you eat three servings of fruits a day as well as three to four serving of vegetables, you will never have a problem. However, the reality is that very few people actually eat this type of diet, and as result, you need to supplement these B vitamins.