Varicose veins aren’t just a cosmetic problem; they can also be the early signs of a longer-term health risk. Here’s why you should get your bulging veins checked, and the different treatment options to choose from.
What causes varicose veins?
Often appearing as twisted or swollen blood vessels that bulge from the skin’s surface, varicose veins occur when valves in the veins of the lower legs no longer function properly. This causes blood to flow back downwards, resulting in enlarged veins, says general and vascular surgeon DR JOHN TAN. Contributing factors may include pregnancy, obesity, standing for log periods of time and a family history of varicose veins.
More than just cosmetic
Varicose veins – which often appear as twisted or swollen blood vessels that bulge from the skin’s surface – are far from just being unsightly. They bring with them a number of possible health complications such as lower leg pain, thrombophlebitis (swelling of a vein) and deep vein thrombosis.
According to Dr Tan, varicose veins can also create venous insufficiency; meaning, they can negatively impact the way that oxygen, nutrients and waste materials move between the blood and skin. If this continues in the longer term, as is the case when the veins are left untreated, it can lead to problems such as varicose eczema (a condition characterised by red, scaly skin on which blisters may develop) and venous ulcers, which can be painful.
“Seeking early treatment for varicose veins that have become troublesome is the best way to prevent some of these risks associated with them,” says Dr Tan. “Depending on the severity, there are various treatment options available, many of which are non-invasive, needle-based procedures that don’t require any incisions or anaesthetics, and can be easily performed in the clinic.”
Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT)
According to Dr Tan, EVLT is one of the most popular picks for treatment because it eliminates all the veins without any surgery, general anaesthesia or hospitalisation, and the patient can walk immediately after the procedure. There are no visible scars once the needle marks have healed, he says. A one-time outpatient procedure under local anaesthesia, EVLT involves inserting a fibre optic wire into the vein to deliver heat, thus shrinking the varicose veins.
Another non-surgical treatment is Venaseal, a superglue-like closure of the veins. Available since 2015, this non-heat-based treatment promises less post-procedural bruising and significantly less risk of nerve injury. According to Dr Tan, this method quickly and effectively closes varicose veins by coating and sealing them with a medical “superglue” that’s introduced through a tiny catheter. Once the diseased vein is sealed, blood is redirected through other healthy veins in the leg.
Ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy
This non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure involves the injection of a strong chemical in the form of foam into the varicose veins, ultimately closing and eliminating them. The use of ultrasound imaging makes it possible to treat deep veins that are not visible to the naked eye, helping to guide the needle into the vein accurately, says Dr Tan.
“As the fine needle is not much bigger than an acupuncture needle, there is no pain and therefore no anaesthesia is required.”
The Vein Clinic & Surgery
#11-08 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road
6245 6666 | theveinclinic.com.sg
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