As we age, it’s fairly common to develop varicose veins - purple, enlarged, bulging or twisted veins which appear at the skin’s surface, typically on the legs and ankles.
Generally, varicose veins and spider veins are not a cause for concern, but can be a cosmetic issue for some. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi podiatrist, Golnar Prudhomme, MD explains the causes, treatment options and preventative measures relating to varicose veins.
What causes varicose veins?
Veins have valves that keep the blood flowing in the direction of the heart. If the valves are damaged or weakened, the blood flows back, pooling in the vein and causing it to enlarge or swell. The veins in legs have to work harder to pump blood back to the heart, which is one of the reasons why varicose veins are more common in legs.
Factors such as gender, age, genetics, obesity and jobs that involve lots of standing or sitting for long periods of time, sedentary lifestyle can also increase the likeliness of developing varicose veins.
Do varicose veins always require treatment?
While the appearance of varicose veins can be unattractive, it doesn’t necessarily mean treatment is required. However, if you experience any pain, swelling or skin discoloration in your legs – particularly if these symptoms come on suddenly, you should seek medical advice. A vascular specialist will be able to determine if and how your varicose veins should be treated.
What does the treatment involve?
There are a variety of treatment methods depending on the severity of the condition:
- Sclerotherapy: A non-surgical procedure used for cosmetic improvement on small varicose or spider veins. It involves a chemical solution being injected into the veins causing them to collapse and disappear.
- Laser and pulse-light therapy: These treatments work by heating up the blood vessels, causing them to shrink. They are more suited to treating small varicose veins.
- Endovenous thermal ablation: This minimally invasive procedure sees a small tube called a catheter inserted into the vein, at its tip is a small device that heats up and closes off the vein.
- Surgery: For larger or problematic varicose veins, surgery may be recommended. This is a two-step process that involves vein ligation – cutting and tying of the affected vein – and stripping, which is the removal of the vein.
Can I prevent varicose veins?
Varicose and spider veins develop for many of us as we age due to a number of unavoidable factors including family history, being overweight, or spending long periods of time sitting or standing. As a result, it’s difficult to prevent the onset of the condition, however, it is possible to slow down existing varicose veins from becoming any worse through:
- Regular exercise, particularly walking, to improve circulation.
- Avoiding long periods sitting or standing - try to move every 30 minutes.
- For those with jobs that involve being on your feet, take regular breaks to sit down.
- Elevating legs when sitting at the level of the hips, and above the level of the heart while sleeping.
- Wearing compression stockings.
If you think you have varicose veins, arrange a consultation with a vascular specialist for diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options.