Preventing and treating varicose veins

The Private Clinic describes a number of treatments available for varicose veins.

Varicose veins will affect an estimated 3 in 10 of us at some point in our lives. While they may seem an insignificant problem to those not suffering, the confidence knock (and sometimes consequent health problems) they can create mean that, for many, their consequences are far bigger than the area they lie on.

Prevention of varicose veins is, unfortunately, near impossible. Advice varies from doctor to doctor, with most concurring that ultimately there is no sure way to stop the broken veins occurring. Small snippets of advice include avoiding standing, wearing compression stockings and keeping your legs elevated whilst sitting where possible. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise is, of course, also suggested, but unfortunately preventative measures come second to the ultimate decider; genetics.  Some statistics suggest that up to 80% of varicose vein cases hail from an unlucky and unintentional parental gift. So, if prevention is out of the question, what about treatment?

Fortunately ridding of varicose veins is far simpler than amending your DNA (and about 100% more available). While vein stripping has long been the most common form of treatment for the condition (an estimated 50% are currently stripped), The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) now strongly advises against this method. Instead, they recommend a less-invasive laser method called EVLA or EVLT (Endovenous Laser Ablation Therapy).

The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic and classified as ‘walk-in, walk-out’, meaning that patients can leave within a couple of hours of their procedure with no need for a hospital stay. It works by using advanced laser energy to seal the faulty valve, thus stopping the blood flow and making the vein walls collapse. Using ultrasound to locate the faulty veins prior to removal makes it highly accurate and, as it is performed under local anaesthetic, you’ll feel no pain during the procedure. The treatment isn’t just easier than vein stripping, however. It has also been proven to be more successful, with a 98% success rate after five years compared to stripping’s 75.7%.  

While the method is the most highly recommended, however, it doesn’t suit everybody. Some people are better treated bysclerotherapy or phlebotomy, two more minimally invasive vein removal options. Sclerotherapy is normally used for veins that are too small to insert the laser catheter, and works through the injection of either a liquid or foam chemical into the vein which forces it to close. Phlebectomy, meanwhile, is used for the treatment of surface veins and involves making tiny incisions through which the varicose veins are removed. Again, like EVLA treatment,   both of these treatments do not need sedation and patients can leave shortly after the procedure has finished.

While the procedures are proven to be effective in destroying problem veins, keep in mind that no procedure can prevent new ones appearing; any method you choose will only rid the veins it treats. New varicose veins can still occur, and it is advisable to speak with your doctor or nurse during consultation to check you are happy with this risk.

It’s a frustrating fact that the prevention of varicose veins is virtually impossible. However, it’s as much of a fact that treatment for them is safe, effective and permanent, providing the practitioner you work with is knowledgeable, experienced, and uses the correct method for you. 

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