Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are not dangerous, but they are unsightly and unfortunately, pretty common. Varicose veins are swollen veins under the skin of the legs and feet, which have become widened, bulging, and twisted. They are an abnormality and can cause a number of symptoms, but as they are a cosmetic matter treatment on the NHS is extremely rare.

There are no accurate figures for the number of people with varicose veins, however, some studies suggest they affect around 20 per cent of the UK population.

They are often blue or dark purple in appearance and can be bulging or twisted.

Other symptoms include:

  • aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs;
  • swollen feet and ankles;
  • burning or throbbing in your legs;
  • muscle cramp in your legs, particularly at night;
  • dry, itchy and thin skin over the affected vein.

Symptoms can flare up in warm weather or if you have been standing up for long periods of time. Affected individuals have said sometimes symptoms ease after walking or raising legs.

What causes varicose veins?

It is not entirely clear why you get varicose veins, however, there are a number of factors including genes and hereditary issues. We do know the condition affects women more than men, and it is thought that one in two women may suffer in their lives. Other factors including hormones, pregnancy, menopause, contraception and HRT, along with having a stationary job.

Weight problems can have an impact, as being overweight puts extra pressure on the veins, making them work harder to send blood to the feet and legs. This adds to the pressure on the valves, making them even more prone to leaking. Again, the impact of body weight on how varicose veins occurs appears to be more significant in women.

Modern jobs that require long periods of standing or sitting uncomfortably may increase your risk of getting varicose veins, as the blood doesn’t flow as easily when you’re stationary for long periods of time.

How do varicose veins start?

The start of varicose veins is often the result of weak vein walls and valves, and sometimes these walls can become stretched and less elastic, which further weakens the valves.

Inside the veins are tiny one-way valves that open to let the blood through, and then close to prevent it flowing backwards. If the valves aren’t working properly it can cause the blood to leak and flow backwards. When this happens the veins collect blood which then becomes enlarged. Why the walls of the veins stretch and the vein valves deteriorate are not clear.

Treatments for varicose veins

The good news is varicose veins are easy to treat and in 99% of cases surgery is not necessary.

Sometimes the problem can be solved with compression stockings (we will check your blood circulation will first be checked to see if these are suitable for you). If not, the following procedures can treat varicose veins:

EVLA is carried out with ultrasound, as a laser fibre is passed into the problem vein. The laser heats up the vein, causing it to close. The laser is pulled back along the length of the vein, allowing the entire vein to close permanently. The procedure can be performed under local anaesthetic and takes about one hour, you will be encouraged to walk immediately and will go home the same day.

EVTA uses heat energy to seal off problem veins. As a minimally invasive procedure, it involves small incisions, fewer risks of complication, and less recovery time than traditional surgery. This quick procedure can relieve your leg pain and swell as well as improving its appearance.

Liquid/foam sclerotherapy is versatile and is used to treat all problematic veins, however, it is commonly used to treat small varicose veins or thread veins. A chemical is injected directly into the vein which makes the vein swell, harden and eventually close. Not all veins are suitable for this procedure, and this will be determined at the time of consultation.

VNUS closure is another ultrasound procedure whereby a catheter is passed into the damaged vein. A radiofrequency current passing between two electrodes at the end of the catheter heats the vein, causing it to seal permanently. VNUS is a local anaesthetic procedure and painless. Patients sometimes report slight tenderness and numbness but this is temporary and is gone by the next day. You will be discharged on the same day.

Phlebectomy instead is when several tiny incisions are made in the skin through which the varicose vein is removed. A hook is inserted into the incision which then hooks onto a section of the varicose vein. This procedure is usually made under local anaesthetic; the incisions are so small there are no stitches required and you will be discharged on the same day.

At the Hunar Clinic, Dr Kyriakides can treat patients through EVTA, sclerotherapy and phlebectomy. He will discuss which treatment is best for you during the consultation.

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