“I’m in good shape so why do I have varicose veins?”

We normally associate varicose veins with older, overweight people. But being slim and fit doesn’t mean you are exempt – even Olympic athletes have been affected!

Varicose veins are caused by faulty valves. As you are probably aware, arteries take fresh, oxygenated blood around the body, while veins bring it back to the heart. Each vein has a series of one-way valves which allow blood to flow back towards the heart. Sometimes however, these valves don’t close as well as they should and blood leaks back down the veins and pools above the next valve. Over a period of time, the pressure causes the vein wall to lose its elasticity and distort, often bulging through the skin.

We don’t really know what causes the valves in some people’s veins to leak, but family history seems to be one of the biggest risk factors. If one of your parents has varicose veins, then don’t be too surprised if you develop them yourself.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent them - if you are destined to get varicose veins, then you will. You then have a choice between putting up with them or having them treated. Varicose veins don’t usually cause problems so if you are unconcerned by their appearance you may choose to live with them. However, some people experience discomfort, swelling and itching, and you may find that strenuous exercise, such as running or cycling, can make symptoms worse.

The good news is that modern treatment for varicose veins is quick and very effective. Gone are the days when you had to go into hospital for a full-blown operation only for them to “reappear” at a later date.

These days we use cutting edge technology such as lasers which can pinpoint the offending vein and destroy it from the inside, never to be seen again. This procedure, known as Endovenous Laser Ablation or EVLA for short, takes minutes and there’s no need for a general anaesthetic so you don’t have to go into hospital.

EVLA and other minimally invasive treatments are carried out in clinics by specialist doctors – usually Vascular Surgeons like Mr Telgenkamp, Mr Senaratne and Mr Sandison or Interventional Radiologists like Dr Faris and Dr Kaikini. They will recommend the best treatment for you and make sure you know what to expect.

Finally, although being in good shape doesn’t stop varicose veins developing, you may notice that you feel fitter and stronger than ever once they are gone.

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