Varicose veins are enlarged and often unsightly exposed veins that typically pop up as a result of aging, decreased blood flow and a breakdown of blood cells. Most commonly caused through genetic predisposition, varicose veins can cause problems including pain, itching and discomfort, and potential ulcers and skin damage brought on by scratching and irritating the surrounding skin. However, while these uncomfortable and painful effects are possible, the most common annoyance of varicose veins for many people is their physical presence — an aesthetic problem is much more common than severe physical problems caused by the veins.
So how do varicose veins form? It generally starts as a result of poor blood flow, particularly in the lower leg. Varicose veins are most common in women, who, as they age, tend to lose a percentage of their blood flow rate in the extremities of the body, particularly the calves and shins. Causes generally revolve around this problem, with the lack of blood flow coming from obesity, pregnancy, or extended periods of standing without rest. While it’s not tied to physical work, the propensity for long periods of standing make people that work in fields where extended standing is required much more likely to experience varicose veins.
Currently, there is no cure for varicose veins, however there is a wide variety of treatment options available. The first, and least severe method of treatment, is preventative and designed to minimize the chances of the veins effecting you, and actively prevent existing problems from becoming worse. The first method is extended elevation of the legs, particularly the calves. This is just a temporary solution, but can prevent pains associated with varicose veins and moderate blood flow in the legs.
A second solution is through the use of compression stockings and sports compression devices. However, this treatment can be problematic for people suffering from heart disease and poor blood flow. As with all treatments, it’s wise to get personalized medical advice and assistance before experimenting with different treatments. Another temporary solution is the use of anti-inflammatory medicines. Again, this needs to be weighed up with any potential problems that the treatment may cause, and the support of a doctor is recommended.
There are some more serious methods for treating varicose veins, most of which are based around direct attention to the veins, rather than just temporary assistance and relief. Different treatments are either surgical and non-surgical. The first, saphenous stripping, involved directly removing problematic and inflamed veins in open surgery. While this is typically effective in treating the varicose veins — long term studies show a 5-60% recurrence rates — it is rather invasive, and has the risk of causing infection or deep vein thrombosis.
A more common non-surgical treatment is sclerotherapy, which involved directly injecting effective medicine into the veins in order to make them shrink and move further from the skin surface. Commonly used as post-support after vein stripping, sclerotherapy has been practiced on varicose veins for over 150 years. While rates of complications, particularly serious complications, are very low, sclerotherapy still runs the very small risk of inducing blood clots in the veins, along with ulceration. Still, when compared to alternative options sclerotherapy clearly presents itself as the most viable and simple treatment method. With a 75% success rate over two years, sclerotherapy is also one of the most successful and simple varicose veins treatments.
With this wide range of options available, it’s wise to survey your needs and decide what’s the right solution for you. As always, professional advice and support is very valuable, and any serious decisions should be preceded by a consultation with a doctor or other health professional.
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