Although knowing the exact cause of your varicose veins can be difficult to pinpoint, many of the symptoms will cause significant discomfort and are therefore much easier to identify. If you are experiencing any aching, heaviness or swelling in your legs – there is a chance your symptoms are due to varicose veins.
First, what are varicose veins?
Veins are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood from around the body, back up to the heart. However when vein valves, or vein walls, become damaged they can lead to Chronic Venous Insufficiency. As well as swelling and skin discoloration, one of the symptoms of CVI is varicose veins. When blood is not able to flow back up to the heart, it begins to reflux or pool, forming twisted, enlarged vessels you know as varicose veins.
The below illustration shows the blood flow in healthy veins vs varicose veins:
Why do varicose veins occur?
Did you know that 1 in 3 Australians suffer from varicose veins? Due to the volume of cases, the causes are often varied. We know that lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and jobs which require extended periods of standing, can contribute to vein damage. Women are particularly vulnerable as both pregnancy and the contraceptive pill can cause varicose veins to develop. But the most common factor is that varicose veins are hereditary.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
The symptoms of varicose veins can be debilitating, many patients feel embarrassed by how their veins look but most importantly they can be very painful (for more on this, see our article why do varicose veins hurt).
Most common symptoms of varicose veins are:
- Aching or throbbing legs
- A feeling of tiredness or heaviness in the legs, especially at the end of the day
- Any swelling in the legs, either around the ankles or around the damaged vein/s
- Skin discolouration
- Itchy skin (see more: Why are Varicose Veins Itchy)
If these symptoms are ignored, over time, red blood cells that have leaked from the swollen veins begin to disintegrate, depositing haemoglobin and other substances into muscle tissue and skin. The result of this is that the skin covering these swollen veins can become inflamed, leading to painful ulcers. If untreated, this can lead to a darkening of the skin around the veins that is known as varicose eczema. Varicose eczema is a long-term condition that will not go away by itself.
Is it risky to leave varicose veins untreated?
Every case is different, so it is advised that you discuss your circumstances with a doctor.
Living with the symptoms of varicose veins can be uncomfortable but if left untreated, varicose veins can also lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and blood clots, as well as varicose eczema.
Seek expert advice
Once your vein valves have become severely damaged the best course of action is to eliminate the source of the disease – the affected varicose vein. The first step is to book your initial consultation. Your specialist will examine the area visually and by performing an ultrasound scan, make a proper diagnosis and recommend the appropriate procedure.
At the Vein Institute, we specialises in non-surgical varicose vein treatment. Although several traditional surgical techniques are available, our philosophy is to offer minimally-invasive options with the least downtime and disruption for our patients. The procedures we offer include: EVA Laser treatment for varicose veins, Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy, Venaseal (medical super glue) and Compression Therapy.