Vein troubles are caused by leaking valves in the vein pipes that channel blood back up the leg to the heart - given that most of us stand up a lot of the time, these valves are essential for propelling the blood upwards against gravity- yet they are surprisingly flimsy and prone to failure for such important structures.
Varicose veins affect about 30% of the population at some time in their lives and are far from being a purely cosmetic matter - in severe cases they cause skin damage in the lower part of the leg which eventually can deteriorate to a venous ulcer - an open sore on the ankle that stubbornly refuses to heal - so getting them fixed early is a very important preventative health measure.
Lots of people were put off from seeking treatment for veins largely because, for the last hundred years, the only operation in town was a surgery called the ‘high tie and strip' - a procedure requiring a general anaesthetic, often a stay in hospital and a painful 6 week recovery. Worse still, even after surgery 1 in 3 patients got the veins back again within 5 years!
The great news for veins sufferers is that new surgical techniques have been a major advance in eradicating the scourge of varicose veins.
Of course, all new treatments go through a phase of assessment and evaluation before a conclusion can be drawn as to their effectiveness and safety. In the UK, the process of assessment is carried out by a governmental body called NICE - the National Institute for clinical Excellence - which conducts in depth reviews of the evidence and effectiveness of various new drugs and surgical interventions before making a recommendation to help doctors decide what is best for their patients.
In 2013 NICE issued a report on vein treatment recommending that the new minimally invasive options such as Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) are superior options for veins treatment to the old style open vein surgery.
Conducted under local anaesthetic via minimal incisions, EVLT seals the leaking vein in the leg quickly and safely with a low rate of recurrence, no scarring and a fast recovery time. Aching of the leg resolves almost immediately and the risk of further skin damage recedes - the leg looks a lot better too!
The other options for preventing aching legs and skin damage are essentially limited to external compression with elastic stockings - quite uncomfortable and not a great look...
So - if you don't want to be wearing trousers all summer - get your veins seen and fixed by an expert vein surgeon right away.
Eddie Chaloner is a consultant vascular surgeon who operates across London and the South of England through his private practice Radiance Health, BMI Healthcare and Benenden Hospital in Kent.
He was the first surgeon in London to use the endovenous laser for vein treatment and remains in the forefront of the latest international developments in this evolving speciality.
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