Varicose veins are often dismissed as a cosmetic problem – it’s pure vanity, right? Ropey, blue blood vessels that protrude the surface of the skin can be unsightly, that’s true – but you may be surprised to learn they can cause symptoms of increasing severity; from itching and swelling, to potentially fatal blood clots, and everything in between. Varicose veins are common, but unfortunately, many people don’t know the facts or how to do something about the condition. When left untreated, varicose veins can be a source of low self-esteem, but they can also cause genuine health concerns and symptoms that can be debilitating.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins refer to abnormal veins (often in the legs) that no longer function correctly. Varicose veins fail at their chief purpose: to return blood from the extremities to the heart and lungs. When blood leaks backwards in these one-way veins, blood can collect in one area of the vein, putting pressure on the vein walls, creating a bulge on the skin surface.
Causes of Varicose Veins
The definitive cause of varicose veins is not known, but a family history of the condition is a strong indicator that it could be inherited. Up to 30% of men and women are affected by varicose veins. Women may experience them earlier in life than men, with fluctuations of hormones, such as during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and with the use of birth control pills.
What are the health consequences of not having varicose veins treated?
Now that you know what varicose veins are, the next thing is to seek treatment. You’re not vain about your veins when you seek treatment. There are good reasons as to why you should see a phlebologist as soon as you establish the presence of varicose veins. Do not wait until you have developed complications to seek advice. Lack of treatment can lead to severe varicose veins or chronic venous disease. Symptoms include:
- venous eczema (venous dermatitis)
- swelling in the leg (oedema)
- discolouration of the skin (hyperpigmentation)
- thickening of the skin of the lower leg or ankle (lipodermatosclerosis)
- localised or extensive break downs of the skin barrier, particularly around the ankle region (venous ulceration)
Lipodermatosclerosis (a thickening of the skin) can greatly affect the health of the lower leg and lead to complications such as severe inflammation (phlebitis) and infection (cellulitis); varicose veins can form clots (thrombophlebitis) and venous ulcers can become quite troublesome and difficult to treat, particularly when they bleed, weep or become infected.
These symptoms can be observed in older people who have had varicose veins for a long time and not sought treatment.
Treatments for Varicose Veins at Vein Health Medical Clinic
Today’s treatments for varicose veins don’t require a lengthy hospital stay, most varicose veins can be treated on an outpatient basis. Procedures available for varicose veins include:
This method entails the use of medical glue to treat the veins by shutting and sealing the affected veins. VenaSeal glue is a medically approved adhesive that seals the saphenous veins at the thigh. The sealing causes the vein to harden and is eventually absorbed into the body.
Endovenous Laser Ablation
The vein is numbed, then a laser fibre is inserted into the affected vein through a small incision, then the fibre slowly removed. This results in the vein wall collapsing with little discomfort. This method replaces the previously common technique of stripping surgery and is one of our most common treatments.
Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy
In this treatment, an ultrasound examination is carried out on the affected leg to map out the problem veins including diseased veins not visible to the naked eye on the skin surface. A sclerosant solution is injected into the problem veins causing the vein wall to collapse, heal, and finally be absorbed into the body.
- Varicose veins refer to abnormal veins (often in the legs) that no longer function correctly.
- Untreated varicose veins can develop into chronic venous disease.
- Review our visual guide to varicose veins.
- To find out more about which treatment is right for you, book an appointment with Dr Paraskevas.