First published: Your Time Magazine. Edition 10, January 2016
They have long been seen as an old persons” problem and there’s no doubt that the older you get, the more likely you are to suffer from varicose veins.
As well as being unsightly, veins can also cause tired, aching legs.
So what are varicose veins? What causes them? And why do so many people put up with the unnecessary pain, discomfort and unsightliness when they don’t need to?
Dr Karl Schulze of Sunshine Vascular Vein Clinic at Buderim is one of a handful of specialist vascular surgeons on the Sunshine Coast.
He has treated thousands of local patients over more than 16 years.
“Varicose veins are a common problem. Some people think that they are caused by crossing your legs or a job where you stand a lot” Dr Schulze said. “But while some situations such as pregnancy can exacerbate the problem, the primary cause is genetic.”
Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins stop functioning properly, allowing blood to flow in the wrong direction.
This can result in abnormally and permanently enlarged veins – and the aches and pains that come with them.
They can also lead to skin ulcers, bleeding or superficial blood clots, particularly in older people.
“That’s one of the most important reasons for having them treated,” Dr Schulze said. And it’s not just women who suffer. Many men also get varicose veins as they get older.
The surgical treatment for varicose veins has evolved in recent years.
In the traditional “vein stripping” surgery, small incisions are made in the legs and the veins are tied off the rest of the vein is removed.
Dr Schulze is now performing procedures using a new approach called Endovenous Thermal Ablation for some veins.
“EVTA uses a laser or radiofrequency energy to cause the feeding vein to constrict and ultimately block up. This stops the reverse blood flow in the feeding vein and reduces pressure on the varicose veins, which can be treated at the same time with very minor surgery”, he said.
“While this treatment still requires an overnight stay in hospital, patients are able to return to their normal activities sooner.”
“After the post-operation check-up, it’s great to see them walk out with a spring in their step,” Dr Schulze says.