How to Treat Varicose Veins
Veins are blood vessels that restore blood from all the organs in the body towards the heart. The veins closer to the skin surface are called superficial veins. They handle less than ten per cent of the returned blood flow. But the veins that are deeper and closer to the centre of the body are called deep veins. Perforating veins connect the superficial veins to the deep veins.
When a few of these superficial veins become enlarged, dilated and raised over the skin’s surface, they are termed as varicose veins. They can develop anywhere in the body, but are more commonly observed in the legs.
About 25-30 per cent of the Indian population suffer with varicose veins, with the problem persisting more in females than in males. They can be painful and cosmologically a concern, but they are usually harmless. Another type of varicose veins are spider veins, which are non-palpable, small starburst clusters or spider web-like veins over the skin’s surface, These are often asymptomatic.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
- Appearance of dark purple or blue coloured blood vessels on the thigh and the calf region.
- Heaviness, tenderness or soreness in the legs, accompanied with swelling in the feet or ankles precipitated by standing for a prolonged period of time.
In advanced stages of varicose veins, skin changes such as edema, inflammation, pigmentation (darkening of skin) and skin ulcers may be observed. These ulcers would heal initially, but when it reaches the final stage they convert into non-healing venous ulcers.
Those suffering from the above signs and symptoms can undergo a simple ultrasound venous Doppler test, to confirm the disease. And like in the case of any other disease, the earlier the treatment of varicose veins, the better the results. A varicose vein is an irreversible and progressive disease. So, at any stage of disease, a patient can visit an interventional radiologist for treatment. However, the treatment will vary according to the stage of the disease.
Traditional treatment consisted of open surgery ligation and the vein stripping procedure, resulting in sutures, scars and delayed healing. Due to the fear of surgery and a lack of awareness, patients avoid or delay the treatment for varicose veins.
Modern treatment option is endogenous laser/radio frequency ablation combined with foam sclerotherapy. With a single small IV line-like puncture, the laser is passed into the main superficial veins. And under the ultrasound guidance, the faulty veins are ablated.
Endovenous laser/radio ablation is a simple no cut, no suture, no scar, day care technique. Compared to the other procedures, it involves less pain and a person can return to routine normal life at a faster pace with similar cosmetic outcomes. It is performed with an aim to reduce the symptoms and the risk of complications, arising from various venous diseases including blood clots.
Foam sclerotherapy is another technique to treat varicose veins. But spider veins can be treated only with microsclerotherapy. However, the success of the treatment is dependent on the laser ablation of Incompetent perforators. This is done under proper image guidance. Also, these procedures are best carried out by interventional radiologists who are well versed with image guided procedures.
Like in the case of any other disease, the earlier the treatment, the better the results, as varicose veins are an irreversible and progressive disease
Complications Of The Procedure
Like every other procedure, this treatment too has some complications. However, when done by an expert, the complication rate is very minimal and self-limiting.
- Pain over the vein
- Nerve damage
- Redness or swelling (inflammation) of the vein
- Blood clots
- Changes in skin colour over the treated vein
Factors Determining Which Procedure To Choose
You will have to keep several things in mind before making a decision as to which procedure is apt for you. Amongst them include the following:
- Age and overall health
- The degree and severity of your varicose veins
- How certain procedures may affect your prognosis
- Your opinion about your physical appearance
- Doctor’s expectation about your condition in the future
Though these simple steps to combat varicose veins, help delay the progression of the disease, it cannot arrest it completely.
- Wear class Il stockings all throughout the day
- Exercise daily (involving your legs). For example, walking cycling etc.
- Do not sit or stand for more than 30 minutes continuously: keep moving
- Elevate legs while sleeping (at a little higher level than your heart)
- Maintain a healthy weight