What causes vari­cose veins?

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Special -

f you’ve no­ticed that the veins in your legs and thighs have be­come ab­nor­mally thick and en­larged, you might be suf­fer­ing from vari­cose veins. This con­di­tion af­fects around 25 per cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially women in their 20s to 40s.

“Vari­cose veins de­velop when your blood ves­sels be­come di­lated and tor­tu­ous – full of twists and turns. They oc­cur most com­monly in the su­per­fi­cial veins of the legs,” shares Dr Ch’ng Jack Kian, as­so­ciate con­sul­tant at the Depart­ment of Vas­cu­lar Surgery at Sin­ga­pore Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal. “Veins have a se­ries of one-way valves that keep blood flow­ing in one di­rec­tion to­wards the heart. When th­ese valves be­come weak or faulty, the blood flows back­wards, re­sult­ing in swollen veins.” “Life­style fac­tors play a ma­jor role in the devel­op­ment of vari­cose veins. Peo­ple who have jobs that in­volve stand­ing for pro­longed pe­ri­ods of time – think nurses, flight at­ten­dants and teach­ers – are at greater risk of de­vel­op­ing vari­cose veins,” says Dr Ch’ng. “They are also more com­mon in women than in men, and have a ten­dency to run in fam­i­lies.”

Other con­trib­u­tory risk fac­tors in­clude a his­tory of blood clots, obe­sity, hor­monal fac­tors and preg­nancy, adds Dr Ch’ng.

What are some of the symptoms?

Be­sides hav­ing the ap­pear­ance of en­larged veins, some­one with vari­cose veins will com­monly com­plain of swelling, heav­i­ness, aching and cramp­ing in the af­fected leg, es­pe­cially af­ter long pe­ri­ods of stand­ing, says Dr Ch’ng.

If left un­treated, vari­cose veins can re­sult in com­pli­ca­tions such as lower limb eczema, hy­per­pig­men­ta­tion, ul­cer­a­tion, bleed­ing and in­flam­ma­tion of the af­fected vein.

What are the treat­ment meth­ods avail­able?

“Vari­cose veins are easy to di­ag­nose as they are usu­ally vis­i­ble. If the veins are small and not too un­com­fort­able, elas­tic com­pres­sion stock­ings may be pre­scribed. Th­ese stock­ings, which should be worn daily, com­press the veins and im­prove blood flow,” says Dr Ch’ng.

Other op­tions in­clude min­i­mally in­va­sive surgery. For smaller vari­cose veins and spi­der veins, newer meth­ods like foam scle­rother­apy are of­ten rec­om­mended, while ra­diofre­quency ab­la­tion (RFA) is used to treat su­per­fi­cial veins. For larger veins, a sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure like Clar­ivein ab­la­tion is usu­ally ef­fec­tive. Not only are th­ese treat­ment meth­ods less in­va­sive, they are said to leave min­i­mal scar­ring com­pared to older tech­niques.

How do I pre­vent them from de­vel­op­ing?

LEAD A HEALTHY LIFE­STYLE “Have a bal­anced diet and ex­er­cise reg­u­larly. This will keep your weight un­der con­trol and your leg mus­cles toned in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the smooth flow of blood,” Dr Ch’ng ad­vises. STRETCH MORE AND OF­TEN “If your job keeps you on your feet, stretch your leg mus­cles of­ten to pro­mote cir­cu­la­tion. This can help de­lay the on­set of vari­cose veins,” he adds.

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