They’re the big, protruding blue veins that stick out on your legs. Yep, we’re talking about varicose veins. If yours are a source of pain or discomfort, there are ways you can get some relief. And if you’d darn well like them gone altogether, it’s not as difficult (or expensive) as you might imagine.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged leg veins caused by leaky valves.
Like all veins in your body, leg veins carry blood towards your heart. (Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to the rest of your body.) But because your leg veins are fighting gravity, blood-flow up to your heart is controlled one-way valves that open and shut.
When the valves are working properly, they stop the blood from flowing back down– particularly when you stand-up. When someone has leaky valves, the blood isn’t draining from their leg properly and a build-up of pressure damages their veins. This when they become dilated, lumpy and knotty – aka varicose veins.
Who gets varicose veins?
“They’re generally born with a predisposition, but over time and the effects of gravity and being upright and various physical activity, pregnancy – that all causes the build up of venous pressure,” says vein specialist Dr Peter Chu, who sees five to 10 patients a week at Melbourne Vein Centre who are seeking varicose vein treatment.
He says being born with the predisposition doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to develop varicose veins, but you’re more likely to get them as you get older.
“You may have the faulty valves, but things that encourage the veins to grow is if you’re more physical active on your feet a lot – that puts more pressure on the veins with the affects of gravity and also with the hormonal changes of pregnancy.” (Meanwhile, these are some not-so-sound treatments celebrities have tried. Post continues after gallery.)
How can I get rid of them?
There is no cure for varicose veins because of their underlying cause, but there are a number of treatments available. Dr Chu says varicose veins may reoccur, with reoccurrence rates between 10 and 30 percent depending on the type of treatment.
Compression stockings are worn every day to relieve the symptoms of pain and discomfort by controlling the build-up of blood in the legs. The stockings must be replaced about every six months.
Pros: This option is completely non-invasive, painless, and requires no recovery time. If you’re diligent with wearing stockings every day, you can prevent future complications.
Cons: The stockings can be uncomfortable and difficult to put on. Dr Chu says, for these reasons, compliance is very low and this treatment is “not very effective” in the long term. This method doesn’t address the cause of the symptoms, just relieves them.