Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins, raised above the surface of the skin. Varicose veins do not occur suddenly. It usually takes years for them to develop. Varicose veins are usually inherited, although it is important to note that they are common in people that have had certain types of leg injuries, deep vein clots or spend a long time standing still or sitting down.
In healthy veins, one-way valves direct the flow of venous blood from the superficial small veins into larger deep veins. The blood eventually passes centrally to the heart and lungs. When one or more of these venous valves fail to function correctly, blood flows in the reverse direction. This tends to overfill and distend the superficial veins under the skin causing a swollen, engorged or rope-like appearance. These are varicose veins.
The symptoms of varicose veins include painful legs, often with a feeling of tiredness and heaviness. Swelling of the ankle and lower leg together with a brownish skin discolouration near the ankle are less common.
Possible long term complications
Varicose veins can be painful and unattractive. Legs and feet may swell, feel tired and throb or ache. The skin surrounding the veins may also itch and burn. Patients may experience restlessness particularly at night.
Left untreated, varicose veins can lead to skin discolouration, and ulceration. These ulcers are difficult to treat and can become easily infected and painful. Many of these symptoms and complications can be prevented by early treatment of varicose veins.
Treatments for varicose veins
Until recently, vein stripping was the standard treatment for varicose veins. There are now alternative treatments available. With the stripping operation an incision is made in the groin so that the damaged vein can be grasped and surgically removed through an incision by the knee. All patients that have stripping get a wound in the groin. Many also get pain and bruising in the thigh, causing a slow return to normal activity.
Some common side effects from vein stripping include temporary pain or discomfort, bruising, haematoma, nerve damage, and less frequently infection. Vein stripping is an invasive procedure and may not be performed on older
individuals for whom surgery poses a risk due to other medical conditions. It is also not an appropriate choice for people who have circulatory problems of the legs, skin infections or blood-clotting defects.
Pregnant women are also inappropriate candidates for stripping. The risk of veins growing back after five years is thought to lie somewhere between 50 and 80 percent.
Endovenous Laser Therapy
Endovenous laser therapy is an alternative treatment option to traditional vein stripping surgery. Using ultrasound, your doctor will position the laser fibre into the diseased vein, through a small hole in the skin. As the fibre is withdrawn, the vein is re-routed through other healthier veins.
Following the procedure, walking is encouraged and normal daily activities can be resumed immediately. However strenuous physical activity such as aerobics should be avoided for three to four weeks. Any bruising or soreness is temporary and improved with the pain relief medications prescribed by your doctor.
The key benefits of endovenous laser therapy
Endovenous laser therapy is a quick, minimally invasive laser procedure that leaves no scar, has a short and relatively pain-free post-operative recovery period, and may be performed under local or general anaesthesia. The treatment itself will take less than one hour. You should be able to resume normal activities within 1-2 days.
Patients report minimal to no scarring, bruising or swelling following the procedure.