Varicose veins – Nobody’s best friend

There are heaps of people that have varicose veins and for the most part they do not cause any problems at all. However many people find them very annoying and uncomfortable, they can also look very unappealing and may stop a lot of people from wearing shorts out in public.

Varicose veins are big swollen veins that come about because the blood does not flow through them in the correct way. The veins are the blood vessels that return blood to the heart so that it can be filled with oxygen for the body’s tissues. There are valves in the leg veins that help to pump blood against gravity and into your chest and then your heart. These valves work by stopping the blood from flowing backwards and pooling in your feet. When these valves do not work properly then you can get this blood pooling into your feet and lower legs. The common places for these varicose veins to from are on the back of your legs and on the inside of your legs. Although varicose veins are pretty useless as transport vessels there are still enough veins left to get the blood back to your heart. However this method may not be as good.

You will know if you have varicose veins as they look like thick twisted cords running over your legs. They will often stick out from the skin surface and can look green or purple in color. They look lumpy and feel much the same and they will usually spring back when pressed upon. For most people the biggest problem is the appearance of their legs, but for many the legs feel heavy, itchy and can be in pain. Things that tend to make the veins worse are when you stand for long periods of time or if you live in a hot climate. You should visit your doctor if you are concerned about these veins and they may order some tests to ensure that this is not causing you more serious problems.

Unfortunately varicose veins are usually there to stay and so if they are causing problems one should consider treatments that can help make your legs look and feel better. Surgery is one of the options whereby the surgeon will remove the varicose veins. This is the most common treatment option and is said to be very effective. The way that surgery is done is that the surgeon will tie off the area above and below the vein and then remove the affected part. Most commonly this is done through two small cuts in the leg; often one cut will be in the groin region and the other may be at your ankle or at your knee. If you need many varicose veins removed then the surgeon may need to make more cuts in the skin. You should not need to stay the night in the hospital after this surgery but you should clear your schedule for a couple of weeks as recovery time is important. Some of the risks associated with this type of surgery are heavy bleeding, allergic reaction to the anaesthetic, bruising and numbness on the legs and the formation of a blood clot in the legs called a deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a rare but possible complication. There is also a nerve that runs down the back of your thigh that can be damaged during surgery and this can cause your foot to drop as you walk.

Another form of treatment is called radiofrequency ablation and alongside laser treatment are two of the newer forms of treatment. Laser treatment uses a small catheter that is thread through into your veins and then the laser heats up the vein and closes it up. A similar thing happens whereby a special heating gadget is put into the catheter instead of the laser and so when this heats up it also closes off the vein. As these treatments are new there is not yet much evidence to support them.

Another form of treatment is to get injections into the veins in an attempt to get rid of them. The way that these work is to collapse the veins and stop blood from getting through. This method of therapy is known as sclerotherapy and this is often used if any veins are still present following surgery. Although in most cases the veins will look better after having these injections it does not always help with other symptoms and can even leave your skin looking a strange color. Often varicose veins will come back after sclerotherapy and many people do not like to get injections in the first place.

There are things that you can try to make your varicose veins more manageable or at the very least stop them from getting worse. Some people try wearing support stockings that are tight around the lower legs and thus can stop swelling and some of the pain associated with varicose veins. It is important that you have the right type of stocking that is the correct fit and you should talk to your doctor about this. Controlling your weight and exercising lots is also very helpful, you should also ensure that you do not smoke as this narrows the blood vessels and makes varicose veins more likely. When you rest you should do so with your feet above the level of your heart and try to avoid standing for long periods of time, especially without moving around.

If you do nothing about your varicose veins then it is likely that they will become worse over time, usually years. They also are unlikely to go away on their own, unless you get them when you are pregnant whereby they usually go away after you have delivered the baby. Many people complain that the skin over the legs gets dry and itchy and bumping the veins can make them bleed. Also some people get clots in the veins here that can be dangerous and cause the legs to swell and become sore. You should always consult your doctor if you are having pain and/or if you feel worried about having varicose veins as there are things that can be done to help you.