Varicose veins (also known as spider veins) are swollen and enlarged veins that appear on the legs and feet.¹ They are identified by the twisty or lumpy appearance and are generally in blue or dark purple colour. While varicose veins are considered a cosmetic issue most of the time, they can also become a health issue if it starts to cause discomfort, thereby affecting your daily routine.
What are the primary causes of varicose veins?
Physiologically, a varicose vein occurs when the valve in the affected vein weakens and is no longer functioning as it should. As a result, circulation becomes poor in these areas and blood starts to pool within the vein. This causes the vein to become enlarged and swollen.
Several things contribute to the weakening of the valves in your veins, including:²
- Constantly standing during the day
- Being pregnant
- Being older
- Being obese
Varicose Veins are rarely a severe issue. However, if it starts causing discomfort, you should consult with a doctor if:
- There is a burning and throbbing sensation in the affected area.
- There is an unexplained swelling near the lower legs and ankle area.
- The skin around the veins are becoming sore and irritated.
- There is constant aching in your legs.
How do you treat varicose veins?
Recommended treatment depends on the severity of the veins and the health of the individual. There are various self-care remedies you may attempt before seeing your doctor:³
- Exercising regularly
- Avoid situations that require a long period of standing
- Elevating the affected area while resting
If you observe no improvement in a few days, visit a doctor immediately. Your doctor will go through your medical history and examine your present health to decide which treatment is suitable for you. Some of the treatments include:
- Endothermal Ablation
- Compression stockings
If any of the above treatments are deemed unsuitable, the doctor may consider a surgical option (ligation and stripping) to remove the problematic vein directly.
This procedure involves sealing your veins either through high-frequency radio waves (radiofrequency ablation) or lasers (endovenous laser treatment).⁴ Both methods will involve inserting a thin hollow tube into a small cut. It will then use heat to collapse the problematic vein and divert the blood flow towards the healthy veins.
Depending on the severity of the case, your doctor will provide a local or general anaesthetics before conducting this procedure.
After the surgery, depending on the type of ablation you had, you might be required to wear compression stockings to aid your recovery.
If endothermal ablation treatment is unsuitable for you, your doctor can recommend an ultrasound-guided foam therapy called Sclerotherapy.
This form of treatment involves injecting special foam into your vein to seal it instead of using heat.⁴ This injection will be guided by an ultrasound hence the name.
A local anaesthetic with painkilling medication is used to numb the treatment area.
Similar to endothermal ablation, you will be required to wear compression stockings or bandages during your recovery.⁵
If endothermal ablation and sclerotherapy are deemed unsuitable, your doctor can recommend you to wear compression stockings for an extensive period of time. This is to investigate if your varicose veins are improving.
This treatment can help manage the symptoms of varicose veins, but it’s currently not known if they will improve the cosmetic aspect of it.
Ligation and Stripping
This varicose vein surgery is a minor surgical procedure that involves the removal of the damaged veins.⁴ After the surgery, you might require up to 3 weeks to recover before returning to work.
Varicose vein surgery is carried out with a general anaesthetic.
You may also need to wear compression stockings for up to a week to aid the recovery procedure.
Help at OT&P
OT&P Healthcare has a dedicated general surgery department that will be able to assist your needs. If you need a consultation or a second perspective relating to this issue, we are available to help. Book an appointment or call our registration desk to find out more.
1. (2020). ’Overview: Varicose Veins’. NHS UK. 7 May. Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/varicose-veins/>
2. (2020). ’Causes: Varicose Veins.’ NHS UK. 7 May. Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/varicose-veins/causes/>
3. (2017). ‘Home Remedies for Varicose Veins.’ Healthline. 26 May. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/home-remedies-for-varicose-veins#the-bottom-line>
4. (2020). ‘Treatment: Varicose Veins.’ NHS UK. 7 May. Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/varicose-veins/treatment/>
5. Fedor Lurie MD, Phd. ’DEBATE: Is compression after sclerotherapy mandatory?’. Phlebolymphology. Available at: <https://www.phlebolymphology.org/debate-is-compression-after-sclerotherapy-mandatory/>