There’s quite a few misconceptions about varicose veins – how they occur, how they are treated and who gets them – not just older people by the way! So here’s our vein expert, Dr Mo Faris, to put a few myths to bed.
Myth #1: Young people don’t suffer from varicose veins
While problem veins are more prevalent in people over 50, it’s simply not true that younger people do not get them. Varicose veins can affect people in their twenties and thirties and can be painful and can also affect self-esteem. Young women in particular will shy away from wearing shorts or skirts because they feel their legs are unsightly.
Myth #2: Varicose veins are caused by being on your feet all day
Varicose veins develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. In a healthy vein, blood flows smoothly to the heart, and is prevented from flowing backwards by a series of tiny valves, which open and close to let blood through. If these valves weaken or are damaged, the blood can flow backwards and can collect in the vein, eventually causing it to be varicose. Standing up for long periods does not weaken the valves in the first place, but being on your feet can make the symptoms worse, which is why professions like hairdressing, nursing and teaching are often thought to cause a greater risk of varicose veins.
Myth #3: Exercise can cause varicose veins
Actually, quite the reverse! Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight which means less pressure will be put on your venous system.
Myth #4: Only women get varicose veins
While women suffer almost twice as often with varicose veins than men – current figures suggest that 30% of women are affected compared with 15% of men, there are still significant numbers of men who get varicose veins and there may be many more who don’t seek medical advice. So varicose veins are definitely not just a woman’s problem.
Myth #5: Varicose veins always come back
This statement may have once held some truth but in recent years it has become a myth. The old way of treating varicose veins was by tying them off and stripping them out – a fairly major procedure carried out under general anaesthetic. But the veins would often grow back and the patient would be back to square one. However, the development of a technique called endovenous laser ablation or EVLA for short has changed all that. This procedure works by destroying the veins by laser from the inside so that none of the surrounding tissues are damaged. Destroying the vein by heat makes it shrivel away never to return. If varicose veins do reappear after EVLA, this is because new veins have become varicosed.
Myth #6: Varicose veins can only be treated under general anaesthetic in a hospital
Thanks to medical advances and new technology we can happily write off this myth. Nearly all varicose veins can be treated quickly and effectively by minimally invasive techniques under local anaesthetic. This means that treatments can be carried out in an outpatient clinic setting rather than in a hospital.
Myth #7: It can take a long time to recover after varicose vein treatment
If you are thinking of getting your varicose veins treated so that you can have a nice rest from work then I’m going to disappoint you I’m afraid! You will be able to walk out of the clinic shortly after your treatment. You may find your legs are a bit sore and bruised initially but there is no need to put your feet up for a week – in fact we recommend that you do as much walking as you can after your treatment.
Myth #8: Varicose vein treatment is only for severe cases
Varicose veins can cause symptoms such as pain, swelling and restless legs at night and in severe cases leg ulcers can develop. While patients with troublesome veins are obvious candidates for treatment, there’s good reason for people with a mild case to be investigated for underlying problems. An ultrasound scan is simple and painless and will reveal problems in veins that are too deep to be seen.
Even if their veins don’t give them any trouble, many people feel self-conscious about baring their legs. As modern procedures are minimally invasive and don’t require a general anaesthetic there is much less risk, so there is little reason not to have your varicose veins treated.
For more information take a look at our varicose vein treatments.