Most people have heard of varicose veins, but relatively few know what this disease is and how to recognise its first symptoms. We talk to Dr Gediminas Vaitėnas, a vascular surgeon at GK Clinic, not only about the causes of the disease, but also about the most effective methods of treating it.
Enlarged veins are not the only symptom
It is usually women who come to doctors for varicose veins, because one of the risk factors is female hormones that relax the walls of veins. However, this disease affects men as well. It is estimated that as many as 20% of all adults will get varicose veins at some point in their lives. The disease is usually attributed to hereditary factors – if one of your parents has varicose veins, you have about a 40% chance of inheriting the disease, and if both of your parents have it, your risk increases to as much as 95%.
The first warning signs of varicose veins are usually capillaries and tiny blood vessels that gradually increase and become more visible. As the disease progresses, you begin to notice enlarged varicose veins on the body, and may experience leg swelling, cramps and itchy skin.
Dr Vaitėnas notes that the course of the disease is different in each case, progressing faster for some and slower for others. In any case, if left untreated, varicose veins can not only have aesthetic consequences, but also cause dangerous skin changes: “This is usually skin discolouration in the calf area, and loss and scarring of the subcutaneous tissue. All this can develop into venous ulcers – sores on the legs that are difficult to treat.”
Preventive measures cannot take the place of treatment
If you have already experienced varicose veins or are at risk of developing them, you should take preventive measures, such as avoiding hot baths or visits to the sauna. You should also exercise regularly and stay active. However, it is important to remember that although preventive measures can help alleviate the symptoms of the disease, they cannot cure it. The only way to overcome varicose veins is by choosing the right treatment.
“In my job, I see a lot of elderly patients who did not address the disease as it progressed, and only came in when they developed serious health problems. Unfortunately, their advanced age, weakened state and other diseases often make applying a method of therapy and effectively treating varicose veins a challenging task. In some cases, we’re simply unable to use interventional therapies, so once you notice the first symptoms, it’s better not to put off treatment,” says the GK Clinic specialist.
Treatment methods are selected individually
For some, the disease is just a matter of aesthetics, but for others, it is a serious, life-threatening problem, so treatment methods are selected based on the stage of the disease, the patient’s anatomy, and his or her own expectations.
At the moment, GK Klinika offers its patients practically all known treatments for varicose veins. The clinic uses surgical, laser, glue, injection (sclerotherapy) or compression treatment, either alone or in combination. In each case, a specialist puts together the most appropriate and most effective treatment plan for the patient.
One of the most commonly used methods for treating varicose veins is endovenous laser ablation. During the procedure, the vein is punctured and a laser fibre is inserted, sealing it shut from the inside. In this way, the vein is blocked and disappears. This method is also suitable for removing large varicose veins.
With surgery, the damaged veins are removed, thus reducing the increased venous pressure and preventing the disease from progressing. There is no need to worry about scars being left after the operation, since the incisions are minimal.
Laser therapy performed through the skin is often used for getting rid of spider veins. During the procedure, the laser is directed at spider veins and individual blood vessels, causing them to disappear.