Varicose veins, otherwise known as varicosities, can not only put you at risk of blood-related complications but can also affect your confidence and self-esteem. When varicose veins happen, they can cause serious physical and psychological discomfort, but fortunately, there are a variety of minimally invasive treatments available to rid you of these blue-purple bulging veins.
Varicose veins affect around 25% of women and 15% of men and are globally influenced by activity and lifestyle. These veins can affect any part of the body from the oesophagus and testes to, more commonly, the lower extremities of the body. This article will take a comprehensive insight into the causes and treatments of varicosities.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are bulging, blue-purple coloured “rope-like” veins that run just beneath the surface of the skin. Varicosities almost always affect the lower extremities of the body such as your legs and feet. When visible and surrounded by what seems to be a network of capillaries, they can be referred to as spider veins.
Varicosities can be painful, although more often than not they are harmless. When inflamed, they can become tender, sore, and hinder circulation in blood vessels causing clots, swollen ankles and feet or drying out the skin.
As well as the veins on the surface of your skin, you have a network of veins, capillaries, and arteries on the inside which may also become varicose. When this occurs, people may experience leg swelling and possibly develop complications such as Deep Vein Thrombosis.
The main and most obvious symptom of varicose veins is that these veins are highly visible. These misshapen veins can present as red, blue, or dark purple, rope-like veins, usually on the lower part of the leg.
However, as with all conditions, individuals with varicosities may present symptoms differently. The most common symptoms of varicose veins may include:
- Skin discoloration around the veins (sometimes the skin may start to look bruised)
- Leg ulcers or sores
- Rash (dry or itchy skin)
- Varicose eczema
- Heavy or aching feeling in the legs
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Burning or throbbing in the legs
- Muscle cramp
Standing up for long periods of time and warm weather can exaggerate these symptoms. They may improve through physical activity such as walking, or by resting and raising your legs, stimulating blood flow.
Severe varicose veins can lead to long-term swelling or the formation of sores and ulcers. The symptoms of varicosities can resemble those of more sinister conditions such as Deep Vein Thrombosis, and so you must consult with a doctor right away if you experience any of the above.
Arteries are composed of a thick layer of muscle to help push oxygenated blood from your lungs to parts of your body. Veins push deoxygenated blood to the heart.
Veins have one-way valves that allow blood to flow to the heart. When the vein walls or valves within the veins are weakened, the valves may stretch and no longer function properly. This leads to the back-flow of blood back into the vein (reflux), causing the vein to stretch in order to accommodate for the increasing volume of backed-up blood.
Over time, blood pressure within these superficial veins will rise, and the vein becomes distorted and tortuous and present themselves as a bulging rope-like blue-purple vein under the skin, called a varicose vein or varicosities. Smaller varicose veins can also occur and may not be visible to the eye.
Varicosities occur through a number of conditions that put excessive pressure on the legs or abdomen, such as pregnancy, obesity, and long periods of standing. In rare cases, chronic constipation and tumours can exert enough pressure to create varicose veins.
There are certain factors that can increase your likelihood of developing varicose veins, some of which include:
- Being female
- Sedentary lifestyle
How are Varicose Veins diagnosed?
Diagnosing varicose veins often begins with a physical examination during which your doctor will assess the visibility of your leg veins whilst sitting and standing, and ask you about your current symptoms.
An ultrasound may be performed to check your blood vessels and ensure there are no blocks or valve damage within your veins. Depending on the location of your varicose veins, your doctor may order a venogram. In this diagnostic tool, the doctor injects a dye into your legs that appears on X-rays to allow your doctor to accurately assess your blood flow. Accurate ultrasound examination of the veins is more commonly used to assess the veins.
These tests are performed to diagnose varicosities and rule out any potential underlying conditions such as blood clots or blockages.
How do I prevent varicose veins without surgery?
There is little evidence to suggest that you can prevent your varicose veins from worsening, but you can follow certain measures to reduce your risk of developing them in the first place. For example, you can try:
A more active lifestyle – exercising regularly can help stimulate blood flow in your legs and prevent the appearance of varicose veins. Your legs are constantly battling against gravity, and so keeping them moving can help prevent the back-flow of blood.
Losing weight – excess weight can put more pressure on your abdomen or legs. As well as preventing the formation of varicosities, losing weight can help significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Compression – a conservative treatment used for varicosities is the use of compression socks. If you have a more sedentary lifestyle, compression socks can help stimulate blood flow in your legs.
Move around – If you work in an office or a similarly sedentary role, try moving around every once in a while, padding your feet, or even changing to a stand-up desk so that you can walk around freely whilst working.
Varicose Vein Facts
Most people consider varicose veins an unsightly inconvenience. Whereas others may fear a more complex problem. Being aware of warning signs and understanding the below facts can largely help reduce the severity of your varicosities and allow you to seek quicker treatment.
- Topical medications do not cure varicosities – although creams may be used to alleviate some of the symptoms caused by varicosities such as dry, itchy skin, they cannot rid you of them. Appropriate treatment should be given by a specialist.
- Varicose veins can occur anywhere on the body – although they most commonly affect the legs and feet, varicosities can occur anywhere on the body that experiences an increased exertion of pressure.
- Certain occupations can increase your risk of developing varicosities – if you are a professor or lecturer, an office worker, or flight attendant, you may be working against gravity for prolonged periods of time. In combination with weakened veins or valves, this could lead to the formation of varicose veins.
- Warning signs of varicosities are similar to some more sinister conditions – if you experience a dull or heavy feeling in the leg, or have numbness and swelling, then this is a cause for concern regardless of any visible symptom. Contact your local doctor as soon as any symptoms arise.
- Varicose veins and spider veins are not the same – Spider veins are red or dark purple in colour, and are not as raised or bulging as varicosities. The main difference between the two is their treatment. Varicose veins are larger and need more aggressive treatment.
The Best Vein Treatments
Varicose veins can be treated using both conservative and surgical methods depending on the severity of your symptoms. Although surgical treatment is both clinically and cost-effective, the possible risks and complications are triumphed through the use of newer and more medically advanced procedures such as those offered here at the Me Clinic.
Can I treat Varicose veins at home?
Most patients can maintain adequate symptom control at home by the use of long-term compression stockings, elevating aching legs whilst resting at home, and using the appropriate painkillers to reduce pain.
Additionally, you can try to increase your activity to stimulate blood flow around your legs. Patients who are overweight are encouraged to return to a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the legs and abdomen.
How much do Varicosities treatments cost?
Varicose vein treatment costs will vary depending on the presenting symptoms of the individuals. The more veins, whether they may be varicose or spider, that need treatment, the higher the treatment cost. Below you will find a guide to the starting costs for varicose vein treatment at the Me Clinic:
- Sclerotherapy – starting from $435 AUD
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) – starting from $150
- Cutera Laser Vein Therapy – starting from $350
- Endovascular Laser Treatments – starting from $2,500
Where Can I Go To Get Varicose Veins Treated?
Varicosities are both a health and cosmetic concern. Therefore, you can visit your local doctor or opt for treatment here, at the Me Clinic. The varicose vein treatments offered here at the Me Clinic include:
The Me Clinic specialises in three different forms of laser therapy for varicose veins: Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), Cutera Laser Vein Therapy, and Endovascular Laser Treatment.
The procedures involve heating the vein using either radiofrequency ablation or laser under the guidance of ultrasound and local anaesthetic. The heat causes the vein to shrink, eliminating the source of reflux and allowing venous blood flow to return to its original function.
This procedure involves the injection of a sclerosant, followed by a period where you should wear compression stockings and use bandages. The sclerosant causes the veins to shrink and disappear.
Varicose Veins Frequently Asked Questions
We hope to have covered the majority of the ins and outs of varicosities, from causes to treatments. However, if you still find yourself curious about varicosities, turn to the section below to seek answers for the most frequently asked questions.
Can varicose veins go away?
No. If left untreated, complications from varicose veins will continue to grow, restricting your blood circulation and require more extensive solutions like vascular surgery to repair. Early detection of the affected vein is your best approach to prevent varicosities.
When should I be concerned about varicosities?
Varicose veins are not considered a serious condition. However, they can be uncomfortable and may potentially lead to further complications. One of the main concerns behind varicosities relates to their visibility which may cause people to lose self-esteem and be uncomfortable.
What do varicose veins indicate?
Varicose veins can indicate a variety of things. Firstly, varicosities can occur as a result of chronic venous insufficiency which permanently damages the valves in the vein. Additionally, varicosities can be an indication that you may be overweight or a sign that you need to increase your daily activity, genetics plays a major role in development of varicose veins.
Is walking good for varicose veins?
Walking is a very low-impact activity, making it ideal for those suffering from varicose veins. Walking allows your muscles to contract, stimulating blood flow in your legs and reducing the pains or aches associated with varicosities.
What happens if varicose veins are left untreated?
A common misconception is that varicose veins are purely an aesthetic inconvenience. However, this is not true. When left untreated, severe varicosities can result in one or more of the following complications;
- Increased blood pressure – as the blood continues to pool back into the vein, the pressure will increase which leads to blood clots, increased swelling and pain in your legs.
- Prolonged symptoms – that feeling of heaviness and a dull ache will only be accentuated if the larger varicose veins are not treated.
- Weakness – your legs will become weaker and more effort will be required to move them.
- Venous ulcers and sores – untreated varicosities can result in wound openings, sores, and ulcers that can spontaneously bleed and result in more sinister complications.
- Blood clots – thrombosis, or deep vein thrombosis can occur if the pressure continues to build.
How do I stop varicose veins from forming?
Although you can’t completely stop varicose veins from forming, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing them in the first place by practising self-care. Reduce your weight, be more active to encourage blood flow, and let your legs rest in an elevated position. Wearing of elective supportive socks or stockings is good too.
How can I get rid of varicose veins permanently?
The problem of varicose veins is lifelong but can be managed very well by appropriate treatment and measures. At the Me Clinic we are well versed at treatment of vein issues.