Before we talk more about varicose veins, it’s important to know that veins form an essential part of the circulatory system. They return blood to the heart after body cells exchange waste products for Oxygen.
Varicose veins, however, are a sign of an underlying problem. Varicose veins may develop through a combination of underlying factors; weakened vein walls, high venous pressures, and faulty valves. Healthy valves open to allow blood flow, then close to stop it flowing backwards. When this simple pump system malfunctions, the blood pools, creating a bulging, knotted look. This is a common issue in New Zealand, with up to 40% of women and 25% of men affected by varicose veins of varying severity. Many people in their 20s and 30s are also unfortunately affected. Varicose veins can be responsible for painful cramps, aching, tired legs and restlessness at night. These symptoms can affect sleep and daily activities.
More serious varicose veins can lead to various problems, including skin discolouration, dermatitis and even ulcers. Patients often inherit abnormal veins, but they can also be related to hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause. Occupations requiring long periods standing contribute to increased risk. For these reasons, Varicose Veins can never be said to be ‘cured’ (although many may never develop more Varicosities). New veins may surface over subsequent years because it is impossible to cure the underlying predisposing varicose disease process itself. In the past, invasive surgical stripping was the only way to treat the appearance and symptoms of varicose veins. This is expensive, requires general anaesthetic and hospitalisation, can leave scarring and requires a long, painful recovery period.
But now, we offer ‘outpatient procedures’ that require no general anaesthesia or hospital stay. You walk in and walk out, and you can drive home afterwards. The great advantage over surgery is that there is minimal downtime or impact on your usual daily living over the weeks following treatment. You will need to wear compression stockings (which now have some more fashionable options) and avoid immediate international air travel.