Are you hiding leg veins under year-round long pants?
10 July 2018
Do you have red, purple, blue or green spiders on your legs?
Do your shins and calves resemble gnarled and knotted, bulging tree roots?
Star bursts fanning out across your thighs?
Leg veins are a common problem as we age and can be socially debilitating in the warmer months when we’d love to wear shorter skirts or shorts but feel too embarrassed to do so.
At our clinic, we’re familiar with the many skin conditions that can create road blocks to self confidence and unsightly veins on legs is a bigger problem for many men and women and most people would realise.
The bad and the good news about leg veins
The bad news about leg veins is that this condition gets worse over time and does not go away.
If you have veins, doing nothing will mean you’re stuck with them for the rest of your life….unless…
there is really good news – which there is! There are a range of treatments which can effectively treat most leg veins.
The causes of leg vein issuues
We often joke that the best thing you can do to avoid developing leg veins is to choose your parents well.
Genetic predisposition is the key factor in predicting the likelihood of this condition existing.
However, with all things genetic, other factors also play a role.
Pregnancy plays a big part in the worsening of this condition.
Also, any condition that involves pressure developing in the abdomen or pelvis can aggravate leg veins.
Other things to keep to a minimum to avoid developing or worsening this condition include:
- being overweight
- prolonged standing
- lack of exercise, specially aerobic (30 mins, 5 times a week)
The problem is more than just cosmetic
While most people who come to our clinic to learn about treating their leg veins are doing so because they are concerned with the cosmetic impact of the veins (i.e. they don’t look great!).
But the problems caused by leg veins can be far more serious than just looking unattractive.
When veins swell they can look bruised and become painful. They can discolour and create skin texture changes, adding to the visual impact of the veins.
They can also induce itching, dryness and eczema and aching.
In late stage, veins can develop ulceration and thrombophlebitis, which can lead to infection and more serious issues including veins blocking in and around vital organs.
For this reason, we do recommend those with significant leg veins get reviewed for treatment and consider taking action to ensure these more serious issues do not develop.
Treatments for leg veins
Treatment options range from simple and low-tech to quite invasive laser and surgery options.
The right option for you depends on the type of veins you have and the extent of development of the condition.
The simplest option available is compression stockings, which tightly compress the legs and re-align the veins to cease bulging and protruding from the leg.
Microsclerotherapy is available for smaller, superficial veins. This option involves injecting the veins with a solution that helps these non-essential veins to die off and disappear.
Sclerotherapy is a similar technique, but is used for bigger or deeper veins we call “incompetent” veins. This process involves ultrasound guided injections into the veins. It is more invasive and, therefore, a bigger procedure than the microsclerotherapy, but can be equally effective.
Laser ablation (EVLT) of deep incompetent vessels is available where it’s deemed suitable. This involves a laser treatment to neutralise the veins, much as sclerotherapy does, but can be a quicker option to treat the veins.
For some patient, old-fashioned vein stripping is still the most appropriate treatment, which involves the surgical removal of the protruding veins. This is a serious treatment and must be performed in a hospital theatre so therefore is not a treatment option we offer. However, if we determine this would be the best option for you, we will be happy to refer you to a surgeon we recommend.
Treatment, regardless of the type, usually requires 2-4 sessions to eradicate most of the visible veins.
It is important to recognise that lifestyle changes after treatment, such as the things listed above, should be seen as an essential part of the treatment process, to avoid the further development of leg veins.
Things to remember when scheduling leg vein treatment
As compression stockings will need to be worn by patients for a week following each treatment, most patients prefer to undergo their treatment in cooler months.
You wont want to undergo treatment before a glamorous beach holiday, because your legs will look worse before they look better. It’s a good idea to leave plenty of time after treatment before events at which you want to bare your legs.
Your legs are likely to need upkeep treatments every couple of years. This is not to say a single run of treatments wont be beneficial in and of itself, but you are likely to develop more veins over time, so retaining great looking legs may require regular attention every few years.
Written by Dr Helena Torpinski.
Helena has worked at our clinic for over a decade as a laser specialist and our primary leg vein treatment specialist.