Varicose veins are the dilatation of veins in the legs causing them to become visible, unsightly (bulging, twisted) and often lead to symptoms of aching, especially at the end of the day. One in three people in their lifetime will suffer from varicose veins. Varicose veins if left untreated can lead to leg swelling, irreversible skin changes and leg ulcers.
Causes of Varicose Veins
Veins return blood to the heart from the legs against gravity and this is accomplished by the presence of one way valves in the veins which allow blood to flow uphill against gravity.
There are two sets of veins in the leg.
It is the superficial system close to the skin which dilates and leads to visible varicose veins.
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Varicose veins occur because the wall of the veins in the leg become weak and often this is hereditary (ie if either parent have varicose veins). This weakness results in the vein dilating which prevents the valves from closing correctly. As the valves cannot close, the vein becomes leaky and instead of blood moving toward the heart, it moves backwards through the damaged valves. Pressure builds up in the leg veins and they become large, unsightly and painful varicose veins.
Very occasionally varicose veins can lead to venous ulcers which can in turn lead to significant long term problems.
Cosmetic unsightly spider and varicose veins are often the catalyst for treatment.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
The treatment of varicose veins aims at improving blood flow in leg veins. Varicose veins can be treated either with open surgery (stripping), or more minimally invasive techniques such as laser surgery or sclerotherapy.
Each patient requires an individual approach to their treatment depending on the severity of the veins and the patient’s preferences.