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What Are Varicose Veins?


Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that commonly occur in the legs. They can be painful and unsightly but are generally not a serious medical condition. Understanding varicose veins, their causes, risk factors, and treatment options can help you make informed decisions about your health.




Varicose veins develop when the valves in your veins become weak or damaged. Veins have one-way valves that help blood flow towards the heart. When these valves weaken, blood can flow backward and pool in the veins, causing them to enlarge and become varicose.


Risk Factors:


Several factors increase the risk of developing varicose veins, including:


  1. Age: The risk of varicose veins increases with age.

  2. Gender: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins.

  3. Family History: A family history of varicose veins can increase your risk.

  4. Pregnancy: Pregnancy places additional pressure on the veins in the pelvis and legs.

  5. Obesity: Excess weight can strain veins and increase the risk.

  6. Prolonged Standing or Sitting: Jobs that require long periods of sitting or standing can contribute.

  7. Lack of Exercise: Physical inactivity can weaken vein health and leg muscle pump action.


Conservative Management:

In many cases, varicose veins can be managed without invasive treatments. Here are some conservative approaches:


  1. Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and elevating your legs when resting can help alleviate symptoms.

  2. Compression Stockings: These specially designed stockings improve blood flow and reduce swelling.

  3. Leg Elevation: Elevating your legs above heart level for 15-30 minutes several times a day can help blood flow back to the heart.

  4. Avoiding Prolonged Sitting or Standing: If possible, take breaks and move around to improve circulation.

  5. Diet: A high-fibre diet can prevent constipation, which can exacerbate varicose veins.

  6. Venous medications: Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers can help manage discomfort.

  7. Blood Thinners: If blood clots are a concern, your doctor may prescribe anticoagulant medications.


Invasive Management:


In severe cases or when conservative and medical approaches are ineffective, invasive treatments may be necessary. These include:


  1. Sclerotherapy: A procedure involving the injection of a solution into the affected veins to close them off.

  2. Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT): Laser therapy can seal off problematic veins.

  3. Radiofrequency Ablation: A minimally invasive procedure using radiofrequency energy to close the veins.

  4. Open vein surgery: performed only in a select number of specific cases for specific reasons.


Risks If Left Untreated:

Ignoring varicose veins can lead to complications, including:


  1. Pain and Discomfort: Persistent leg pain and discomfort.

  2. Skin Changes: Skin near varicose veins may become discoloured, dry, and itchy.

  3. Ulcers: Ulcers can form near varicose veins, especially if they're not treated.

  4. Bleeding: Ruptured varicose veins can lead to bleeding.

  5. Blood Clots: An increased risk of developing blood clots.


Remember that early diagnosis and appropriate management can help prevent these complications and improve your quality of life.


Speak with Dr Simon Vun, FRACS for personalised advice on your varicose veins. He can recommend the best treatment options based on your specific situation.

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