Who gets varicose veins?
The reasons why people get varicose veins are not yet fully understood. However there are two main factors that contribute to their development: your occupation and your genetic propensity.
Varicose veins develop when the blood does not get pumped back up the legs properly to the heart. This can happen if a person stands or sits in one position for long periods of time. The muscles in the legs need to contract and relax, such as when walking, in order to facilitate the circulatory system.
It is thought that the tendency to develop varicose veins runs in families. Varicose veins are dilated veins, which lose their elasticity and enlarge over time. This is an inherited genetic trait, as is weak valves – another contributing factor to varicose veins.
Other risk factors include obesity, cigarette smoking, a high level of cholesterol, and pregnancy.
How are varicose veins treated?
If your varicose veins are not causing you serious problems there are some treatments that you can do at home to help relieve the symptoms:
- Exercise – good for keeping the blood flowing evenly throughout the body
- Compression stockings – helps relieve aching and swelling in the legs
- Weight loss – being overweight can exacerbate symptoms
- Elevating the legs – especially at night, to assist blood flow from the legs back to the heart
If your varicose veins symptoms are causing you problems then there are more medical treatments available:
- Sclerotherapy. This involves sealing off the affected vein by injecting a chemical into it and allowing other veins to take over the work. The varicose vein then becomes less visible as it is no longer filled with blood.
- Laser therapy. A technique to bring about scar tissue inside the vein in order to close it off, producing a similar effect to sclerotherapy.
- Microphlebectomy, or stab avulsion. The varicose vein is removed through several tiny incisions made in the skin. Stitches afterwards are not normally needed.
- Radiofrequency therapy. This varicose veins treatment is a similar procedure to laser therapy, except radio frequency is used instead of laser energy.
- Vein ligation. A standard varicose veins treatment for, it involves making small incisions in the skin of the leg so the damaged vein can be removed and the healthy part reconnected in a different place.
Before deciding to have surgery on your varicose veins, take into consideration the following factors:
- The severity of your symptoms
- Risk factors
- Self-care treatment/management
- The benefits of surgery versus the drawbacks
- Whether you can have the treatment on the NHS
Reasons to have them treated
- If you’re troubled by the symptoms
- Persistent symptoms, despite self-care measures
- Newer outpatient techniques offering good results with fewer risks