Varicose veins and spider veins are unsightly and a nuisance, but at what point do they become a danger to your health?
In this article we’ll explain the stages of progression of chronic venous disease, and why the earlier the treatment, the better.
Those annoying varicose veins are the result of a gradual weakening of the little valves inside our veins. These valves are important because they ensure that the blood moves upward, from the feet to the heart, against gravity. However, due to age, heredity, and lifestyle factors, the valves may begin to fail. When this happens, blood moves downward towards the feet and may pool in the lower extremities. This is when chronic venous disease, also known as chronic venous insufficiency, begins.
Vein disease stages
Generally, vein specialists list the following stages through which vein disease progresses in most people:
Not everyone with spider or varicose veins will progress through all of these stages. Experts don’t know exactly why some peoples do more than other. They can see a strong hereditary component in this process but it is not the only factor. Careers with prolonged standing or sitting, excess weight and smoking are also factors that could progress vein disease. While all varicose veins should be evaluated by a specialist, it is particularly important if you have a family history of progressive venous disease or if you have swelling, pigmentation or an ulcer.
When should you get treatment?
If you already have swelling or changes in the colour of your skin, the sooner you get treatment the better. These are not merely cosmetic problems that will go away on their own. The higher levels are more difficult to treat and may take longer to resolve. In particular, ulcers, which are the result of chronic and untreated leakage from varicose veins.
Compression stockings provide symptom relief but cannot slow or reverse the progression of venous disease. There are now a number of minimally invasive treatment options available. Sclerotherapy and endovenous ablation can be performed in a doctor’s clinic, with no need for surgery or hospitalisation. The right treatment for you will depend on the extent and location of your venous disease, and a venous health examination with ultrasound guidance will help your vein specialist offer you the most appropriate treatment options for your particular condition.
If you’re concerned about your veins, or if you’ve let your varicose veins go untreated for a while, we advise getting a scan and venous health evaluation. There are effective treatments that will help minimise your symptoms, improve your circulation and get you back to your best.