If you suffer from varicose veins you're not alone. It's a very common complaint but thankfully there is a solution to this unsightly, painful and potentially dangerous condition.
Veins carry deoxygenated blood back to your heart using one-way valves to help pump the blood against the force of gravity. However, if the valves no longer close properly, the blood starts to pool in your superficial veins. The veins then start to distend with blood - or become ‘varicose’. They become knobbly and darkish-blue in appearance.
It should be noted that varicose veins are not always visible to the eye.
Up to one in three Australians suffer from debilitating varicose veins yet most people undergo varicose vein treatment purely for cosmetic reasons. However, as they can also cause serious health problems, it's definitely worth having them checked. You certainly don't want to risk developing blood clots or ulceration.
Varicose veins can be genetic and tend to affect more women than men. Nobody is quite sure why but it could have something to do with changes in a woman's oestrogen levels during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
You are also at a higher risk of developing varicose veins if you stand or sit for long periods of time or don't exercise. They can also be caused by obesity.
There are a few myths about varicose veins that need to be busted. Firstly, they are not caused by ageing. Whilst they may get worse as we get older varicose veins can occur at any age. Some teenagers present with varicose veins.
Another myth is that varicose veins are caused by running. On the contrary, any form of exercise is good for your circulation and can help prevent varicose veins. The veins in our legs rely on the pumping action of our calves to move the blood uphill. The stronger your leg muscles the better.
Thankfully, varicose vein treatment has changed a great deal over recent years. Traditional vein surgery relied on a procedure known as 'stripping' the veins. The very description makes you feel quite ill.
Whilst this procedure got the job done - and is still available today - there is a high risk of recurrence. It also involves having a general anaesthesia, leaves a lot of scarring and can lead to complications such as infection, bleeding and Deep Vein Thrombosis.
Newer procedures include Endovenous Laser Ablation, Radiofrequency Ablation, Direct Vision Sclerotherapy and even glue.
Endovenous Laser Ablation can be used to treat large veins. Performed under local anaesthetic using ultrasound, this is a simple procedure that is proving very successful and doesn't leave scars.
Radiofrequency Ablation is similar to Endovenous Laser Ablation in that it is performed under local anaesthetic and there is no scarring or downtime to worry about. It works by heating the veins from within using electromagnetic waves. More gentle than using laser energy patients generally experience less discomfort with this method.
Direct Vision Sclerotherapy is quite different but equally as effective. A special detergent-based solution is injected into the vein which causes a biochemical reaction. The vein collapses and hardens and then gradually fades away over the following months.
A variation of this treatment is Ultrasound Guided Foam Sclerotherapy. It still involves injecting the solution into the vein but an ultrasound is used to more accurately target the problem area.
The most revolutionary varicose vein treatment is medical glue. Without the need for heat or biochemical reactions, the special adhesive permanently glues the vein shut. This effectively seals it off and promotes a permanent hardening of the vein. This has to be the least invasive varicose vein treatment of them all.
Most of these newer varicose vein treatments can be carried out in 20 to 30 minutes with little or no recovery time needed. So if your veins are unsightly or causing you problems, be sure to find a specialist in your locality and book a consultation using Bookwell.