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Updated: March 27, 2010 20:29 IST

Never in vein

DR. PANKAJ PATEL
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ON YOUR FEET: Standing for long time can lead to varicose veins. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam
The Hindu
ON YOUR FEET: Standing for long time can lead to varicose veins. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

Many who suffer from varicose veins think there is no cure for this problem. But this is a misconception.

There are several instances of people silently suffering from varicose veins unable to find a cure or learn how to handle them. Also, when the pain and disease recurs despite treatment, patients are under the impression that varicose veins are not curable. But this is a misconception.

Payal Shah, who lives in the U.S., had suffered from varicose veins for five years. She tried several treatments but found only temporary relief. While travelling to India, on the 14-hour flight, she experienced tremendous discomfort and pain in her legs and her ankle was red, swollen and painful. Soon her ankle was a pool of blood; a varicose vein had ruptured and was bleeding heavily. The first-aid on flight controlled the bleeding and on landing, she was brought to hospital. The bleeding varicose veins were treated with a combination of laser and sclerotherapy treatments, where the affected vein was destroyed from within. The results were very effective; not only did bleeding stop within 24 hours, but Payal also found a permanent cure.

The problem

What are varicose veins? Why do they occur? Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins, which are usually blue or dark purple and may appear lumpy, bulging, or twisted in appearance. They can occur in any part of the body but generally appear on the legs.

With awareness being low, patients are often unaware of advanced treatments that can give permanent relief. Often patients tend to take what they do with fever. Take a Crocin for the pain. This does not help treat the underlying main cause. If left untreated for long, varicose veins can cause long-term damage. The patient may not be able to walk in the long run, or the vein may burst and cause bleeding and wounds that may not heal.

Varicose veins develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. In a healthy vein, blood flows smoothly back 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 flows backwards, and collects in the vein, eventually causing it to be varicose.

There are several reasons why they might just suddenly appear. Varicose veins tend to be hereditary. If your mother or grandmother had them during pregnancy, you can probably get them too. The good news is that they tend to get better after delivery.

In another case, a 31-year-old store manager working on his feet most of the day suffered from ulcer that would not heal for a few years. Nothing worked despite several kinds of treatment. Finally he too was treated with a combination of laser and surgical treatment, which is the best form of treatment for young patients. He recovered completely in four weeks.

Treatment options

So what are the most effective treatments available? The type of treatment depends on your general health and the size, position, and severity of your varicose veins. The most effective method is endovenous laser along with hook phlebectomy. Other available treatments include use of compression stockings, sclerotherapy, which is usually suitable for people who have small to medium-sized varicose veins. This involves a special chemical being injected into the veins that works by scarring the veins and then seals them closed. Surgery may be required when large varicose veins need to be removed,

The other option is endovenous laser treatment where a narrow tube, known as catheter, is inserted into the vein using an ultrasound scan. A tiny laser is then passed through the catheter and positioned at the top of the varicose vein. It emits short bursts of energy, heating the vein up and sealing it closed. The laser is slowly pulled along the vein using the ultrasound scan as a guide, allowing the entire length of the vein to be closed.

The author is a Mumbai-based vascular surgeon.

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