Long sunny days, a rising thermometer. It’s the season for swimsuits, hats and sunbathing. And with it, several precautions to take for your skin and eyes. But also your legs. Because with the heat and the wearing of shorts or sketches come the problems of heavy legs and varicose veins.
How to get rid of varicose veins? Surgery to remove the dilated vein has long been the only answer. But in recent years, effective and less invasive techniques have become commonplace. Here is the truth.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are the ultimate stage of venous insufficiency. It mainly affects two superficial veins of the legs: the great saphenous vein and the small saphenous vein.
When the vein is permanently dilated, its valvular mechanism prevents blood from flowing back downwards, and going against gravity no longer fulfills its function. It’s like a river that doesn’t flow in the right direction!
This is why patients complain of pressure in the lower limbs, commonly known as heavy legs.
Who is affected?
Varicose veins affect a third of the population, or more than 20 million people. It is more common in women. It increases with age, but it can also appear at a very young age.
In addition, it is a disease with a strong hereditary component that affects people who are overweight, those who occupy a position that involves prolonged standing and those who are exposed to heat.
What are the consequences?
Varicose veins are not a serious health problem; they develop slowly over time. You don’t have to run to the doctor if you don’t have any symptoms. But you should be aware that it never goes away on its own; it will get worse. Over time, the veins become slower and slower.
Although not immediately fatal, varicose veins can cause pain in the legs, especially in the summer. Beyond the discomfort, there are aesthetic consequences: you will see unsightly veins on your leg. In addition, this stagnant blood can damage the skin over time, which becomes drier. When it sets in, eczema can develop.
The second problem is the rupture of varicose veins. “When the vein is very prominent, the slightest shock will cause a wound that will bleed a lot,” she explains. More impressive than serious, you have to compress the wound with a clean cloth, lie down and elevate your leg.
More seriously, phlebitis is the most frequent complication when the varicose vein has developed for several years. If this blood clot remains in the superficial vein, it is benign, it is called paraphlebitis. On the other hand, if it obstructs a more prominent deep vein, we speak of deep phlebitis, with the risk of the clot rising and causing a pulmonary embolism.
Leg ulcers can also form, like a chronic sore, as the body gets used to having a hole in the leg. The slightest wound can have trouble healing when the skin is badly damaged. It is painful and can infect or even threaten the leg.
In this case, you should promptly consult a doctor. It’s a more common problem than you might think. Ulcers affect 2% of a country’s population and 5% of people over 80, and more than half of leg ulcers are related to varicose veins. It is a complex problem to treat: half of the ulcers take more than six months to heal, requiring dressings and regular nursing care.
How are varicose veins detected?
If you are concerned about varicose veins, you can talk to your GP. They can refer you to a vascular doctor. They will start you with a clinical examination and an interrogation to verify that it is indeed varicose veins.
This will be followed by a Doppler ultrasound to analyze the venous circulation, see if the veins are sluggish and check that the deep veins are working properly. As we have seen, the consequences are less serious if only the superficial veins are affected.
What are the new treatments?
A range of hygiene measures (walking, elevating the legs at night, wearing compression stockings, etc.) and medical treatments (venotonics) to treat varicose veins when they become too unbearable.
But sometimes more drastic treatments, such as surgery, are needed. Nevertheless, new techniques have appeared in recent years, simplifying the lives of patients.
- Sclerotherapy – For minor varicose veins, sclerotherapy techniques are practical, simple and without anesthesia. A product is injected into the affected vein, causing it to harden. For a small vein, the product will be injected in liquid form; for the intermediate veins, the product will be in the form of a foam. In addition, this technique leaves no scars.
- Laser or radiofrequency ablation: To treat large varicose veins, doctors prefer surgery to remove the veins. It’s a good solution, but traumatic. This requires hospitalization, an operation, between 2 and 3 weeks off work, stitches, etc. It is always the preferred option for very large veins and in the event of a recurrence.
- Thermal radiofrequency– This is a less invasive method based on thermal occlusion. Doctors insert a catheter into the vein and burn it from the inside. The significant advantage of this intervention is that it is performed in the operating room, but under local anesthesia, on an outpatient basis, without stitches or sick leave, and with quick and easy recovery.
The patient resumes his daily life a few hours later. These modern machines deliver heat very precisely,” she continues. This limits the risk of burning around the vein, skin or nerve.
- Skin graft for ulcers– Another novelty, a skin graft can be performed when the ulcer, one of the complications of varicose veins, has trouble healing. The doctor takes a small skin graft to revive the circulation and wake up this sleeping basement. These small pieces of skin are about the size of a grain of rice and are taken from the thigh.
It is positioned on the ulcer then closes the whole thing. This reduces pain and speeds up the healing process. It is a very beneficial technique for patients and light: it is performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. But this procedure should always be done in addition to treating the cause of the leg ulcer.
Many hospitals and clinics are designed to focus on these types of innovative and less intrusive surgeries, such as medical west. As always, be an informed consumer. Thoroughly research the different treatment options available to you and the medical centers and hospitals that provide these treatments before enrolling.
This way you can rest assured that you are well taken care of before, during and after treatments, and you know that you are in the best of care.