Having puffy and twisted visible red and purple veins just under the skin in the legs can be a cause for embarrassment. Varicose veins are in fact, a common occurrence, affecting at least 30 percent of people during their lifetime. Women are mostly affected by varicose veins more than men. They mostly appear on a person’s legs but can also be present at any part of the body.
Our general surgeons at IMH provide us with an overview of the causes of varicose veins and treatments in eliminating it, including surgery.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins come to surface when there is an irregularity in the flow of blood (usually an increase in blood pressure ) in the veins- caused by damaged and weak vein walls and its valves. Aging is a primary cause of varicose veins since the valves inside the veins become worn out.
For blood to circulate properly, it needs to work against gravity and makes its way upward back to the heart. To do this, muscle contraction in our lower legs supports the flow of blood back to the heart. The valves inside the veins open and close accordingly to prevent the blood from flowing back. When the valves become weak, it does not close properly, disrupting the blood flow. The blood gathers inside the vein causing it to enlarge and twist.
Who Are At Risks?
Pregnant women, overweight individuals, adults past the age of 50, and people who are often standing at work are at risk of developing varicose veins. Studies suggest that the weakness of the structural integrity of the veins can be inherited, thus furthering the risk of having varicose veins. Preventive care can be done through lifestyle changes and exercise. A change in lifestyle can particularly have a significant impact on the development of varicose veins. For instance, quitting smoking or eliminating alcohol intake will effectively reduce the risk of having varicose veins.
Varicose Vein Operations
General surgery can be performed to remove small varicose veins. A common procedure is called ambulatory phlebectomy. Numbing agents will be used surrounding the vein, and the patient will be awake throughout the duration of the surgery. Generally, this is an outpatient procedure meaning the patient can go as soon as the surgery is done.
During cases in which the varicose veins cause skin ulcers, endoscopic vein surgery is carried out. As the name implies, an endoscope or a slim tubular instrument that has a camera is used as a guide to close a vein. This procedure is typically performed for severe cases.
Finally, there is vein stripping and ligation. Just like endoscopic surgery, this procedure is done to treat severe cases of varicose veins. This surgery is done by tying shut and completely removing the problematic vein via small incisions in the skin. Unlike an ambulatory phlebectomy, sedatives are given to temporarily put the patient to sleep, making the surgery painless. This is also an outpatient procedure with recovery within a period of 1 to 4 weeks.
If you wish to undergo a varicose vein operation, consult with a specialist general surgeon to receive the best treatment possible.