Have twisted, enlarged veins in your legs? Varicose veins develop when the valves in our veins stop working properly and the blood pools in the lower half of the body. It is a debilitating condition that predominantly affects women and, if left untreated, evolves into far more serious symptoms that can result in irreversible skin damage at later stages. Dr Cheng Shin Chuen, a general surgeon of vascular and endovascular surgery at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, tells us more about the symptoms, complications and treatment options.
In the early stages, varicose veins can just be visible in the thighs or calves. However, it is common for patients to also experience feelings of discomfort, aches, and heaviness and swelling in the legs.
“If left untreated, varicose veins can evolve into skin discolouration, open sores or ulcers. As such, it is critical that patients are empowered with the knowledge to spot and report the symptoms to specialists that will be able to prescribe the necessary mode of action,” says Dr Cheng.
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Women are more susceptible to varicose veins because of our hormonal changes. However, family history and obesity also play a part in the development of varicose veins, as does standing for long periods of time.
According to Dr Cheng, varicose veins are a progressive condition that only reduces one’s quality of life.
“A study showed that one in three patients will face serious complications like vein ruptures and heavy bleeding within six years should they leave varicose veins untreated. In addition, blood clots have also been reported in patients that have severe varicose veins, which can result in severe swelling and even deep vein thrombosis. Untreated varicose veins also run the risk of developing venous ulcers, which are highly disfiguring.”
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The condition is diagnosed via an ultrasound examination and there are five treatment options available. The treatment options vary depending on the severity of their condition as well as their doctor’s recommendations, and entail sclerotherapy (where a solution is injected directly into a vein0; thermal closure (whether laser or radiofrequency); non-thermal vein closure therapy (involving tissue ‘glue’ or sclerosants) and stripping.
“All these procedures work towards the common goal of treating varicose veins and restoring the patient’s quality of life exponentially,” adds Dr Cheng.
Dr Cheng says that although varicose veins should not be treated using home-based treatments, there are many lifestyle choices that we can all adopt to promote a healthy vascular system, like moving about regularly; avoiding prolonged standing and taking rests every 10 to 15 minutes; and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.
To find out more about caring for varicose veins, click here.
This article originally appeared in Her World
- Varicose Veins