Varicose veins are a common condition that affects millions of people each year. They occur when the valves in the veins that carry blood from the legs to the heart stop working correctly, causing the blood to pool in the veins. This can cause the veins to bulge and become twisted. Varicose veins are often painful and can lead to serious health complications such as ulcers and blood clots. While varicose veins can occur at any age, they are most common in people over 50.
Varicose veins are different from spider veins, even though both are a type of venous disease. Spider veins are tinier and finer and look like red or blue spider webs or branches of a tree. They are closer to the skin’s surface and are not painful. They may occur on your feet, behind your knees, on your face, or even on your legs. Varicose veins, in comparison, only appear on the feet and legs.
Varicose veins can happen to anyone with the following:
- Family history
- Lifestyle – jobs that require standing or sitting for long periods of time, resulting in decreased circulation.
- Overall health conditions—severe constipation can cause strain on the veins.
- Overweight individuals are more likely to have varicose veins due to excess pressure on the veins.
Signs and Symptoms
Varicose veins are obvious and are presented as bulging or protruding, gnarly-looking blue or purple veins just under the skin’s surface. The symptoms are listed below:
- Bulging twisted veins of dark blue or purple.
- Aching or heaviness in the legs
- Throbbing or crampy pain in the legs
- Itching around the veins
- Darkening and itching around the skin and colour around the veins.
Complications of varicose veins are ulcers around the veins, blood clots due to obliteration from the tortuous nature of veins, and bleeding by the bursting of veins. It is best to seek medical advice as soon as you notice the slightest symptoms.
Diagnosis and tests
We generally advise a Doppler ultrasound for varicose veins, which determines the pressure inside the vein, and we can decide on the treatment options available.
Some early interventions in varicose veins include leg elevation and elastic stockings, which the patient can manage. Elevation decreases the pressure and increases the blood flow in the veins. Elastic stockings act as bandages and compress the veins, thus providing pain relief.
Several treatment options are available for varicose veins, including surgery, sclerotherapy, and laser ablation. Treatment is often recommended to improve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.
Endogenous laser ablation
This is a laser treatment that is ultrasound guided where we calibrate the great saphenous vein as or the main vein at the ankle and we pass the whole leg length laser fiber and ablate the entire main channel. Ultrasound confirms that the vein is completely ablated, leaving behind no scar.
Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a solution by an experienced surgeon that leads to compression of the vein (sticking the walls of the vein together) and, thus, scarring of the vein.
Conventional surgery for varicose veins: It is rarely performed in today’s time, where the surgeon makes multiple cuts on the leg of the patient and removes or strips the vein at various positions. This is limited to recurrent cases or resistant cases these days.
The risks of varicose vein surgery include bleeding, infection, blood clots, and nerve damage. Before the procedure, talk to your surgeon about the risks and benefits of varicose vein surgery.