What are Varicose Veins?
A Varicose Vein is a common type of Varicosity that usually affects surface veins rather than deep veins. Usually a non-serious condition, they are localised, visible, irregular bulging veins that are most frequently found in the calves and legs, because standing and walking puts extra pressure on the veins in the lower body, although they can be found elsewhere in the body. They can be quite long and are usually dark blue or purple in colour which causes them to stand out against the surrounding skin.
Who is likely to suffer from them?
A swollen vein can often be a painful and debilitating complaint. This is a medical problem that is suffered by millions of (usually) older people worldwide.
Women tend to be more affected than men, with approximately 30% of women developing varicose veins in their lifetime, compared to 15% of men, and they can cause particular embarrassment to women due their often unsightly appearance.
What causes Varicose Veins?
Veins are used to carry blood on it’s return journey to the heart after it has been pumped around the body. Blood pressure is high in the arteries, but very low in the veins as the force of the heartbeat is almost spent by the time it reaches the extremities of the body. Consequently blood flow through the veins is slow, and also has to work against gravity, from the lower legs back to the heart. In order to accomplish this, the veins are equipped with a series of one-way valves that prevent blood from leaking downwards through gravity, as the natural flow of blood continues upwards, under slight pressure. When these valves become faulty it can cause the stagnation of the blood flow and lead to the condition developing. There are also additional factors that may affect the formation and extent of varicose vein appearance :-
- Low oxygen content in the blood
- Low blood glucose levels
- Poor bodily nutrition
- Accumulation of metabolic toxins normally cleared by strong blood flow
- Genetic susceptibility
What are the symptoms of Varicose veins?
The symptoms of varicosity can be both visible, and sensory – accompanied by fatigue and pain – usually in the form of an ache. Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins which are usually a blue or dark purple. They may also be lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance.
What Treatments are available?
There are four main treatments that are currently available for varicose veins treatment. These are :-
- Conservative therapy through support stockings
- A clotting injection to close off the affected veins
- Surgical treatment known as ‘stripping’
- Laser Vein Treatment, or Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT™)
The simplest treatment is to wear support stockings that assist with blood flow, and diversion of blood into deep veins where blood flow is improved. This can produce very effective results.
Where the use of a support stocking has not been effective, a localised injection of a special blood clotting compound may be used to seal off the affected veins to prevent any worsening of the condition.
Surgical removal of varicose veins may be recommended where previous treatments have proved to be ineffective. This procedure involves an operation carried out under a general anaesthetic to tie of both ends of the affected vein, via surgical incisions at either end, and physically remove it. This process is known as ‘stripping’.
The latest treatment is known as Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT™), and is a less invasive method of treating varicose veins, involving a simple laser vein treatment procedure that can be carried out in less than an hour and under local anaesthetic.