‘Varicose veins’ is the common term used to describe venous disease. There’s a lot of false information out there about varicose veins, so we thought we’d bust some of the key myths that you may have heard. In particular, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about who’s at risk, how the disease manifests itself, and when to seek treatment. If you’re looking to sort the fact from the fiction, you’re in the right place.
1: Only old women have venous disease.
When we hear the term ‘varicose veins’, many of us will immediately think of older women who we’ve known to suffer from ‘bad veins’ and to cover their legs to save embarrassment. While it’s true that venous disease is more common amongst the older generation, varicose veins can appear at any age. Varicose veins occur in all manner of people, regardless of their shape, size, age, sex, or race.
2: People who cross their legs get varicose veins.
We’ve heard this one a lot and would like to be clear: varicose veins are not caused by crossing your legs. Although this sitting position can inhibit the blood flow in your veins for a short time and might make the symptoms of venous disease worse, crossing your legs doesn’t cause varicose veins. There are many reasons why someone may develop varicose veins. Over half of those who suffer from venous insufficiency have a family history of varicose veins. Women are more at risk than men, and women who have had children are particularly vulnerable. Further, people who are older or have a higher BMI are more likely to suffer venous disease.
3: Varicose veins are easy to spot.
While the clearest sign of venous disease is the presence of bulging veins, research has proven that over half of all women, and almost half of all men, suffer minor symptoms of venous insufficiency. Less than half of these people have the typically bulging veins that we all recognize. There are also some other symptoms that can indicate an even more serious vein disease called ‘chronic venous insufficiency’. These include localized pressure and swelling, aches, itching, ulcers, blood clots, heaviness, restlessness and pain in the legs, and changes in the appearance of the skin.
4: Varicose vein procedures are purely cosmetic.
We’ve already dispelled a few myths, and no doubt you’ve guessed that cosmetic considerations are fairly low on the priority list when it comes to treating varicose veins. As proven by extensive medical research, treatment for venous disease is a clinical necessity and greatly improves patients’ quality for life. By treating a patient’s venous disease properly, we restore normal venous flow and greatly improve their symptoms. The cosmetic benefits of this treatment are simply a positive side-effect.
5: Doing heavy exercise will make varicose veins even worse.
Exercise is good for you. It’s good for your veins, too. By walking or running, you’re using your leg muscles to push the blood back to your heart, and greatly improving your blood circulation. To prevent blood from pooling in the legs, runners who have had varicose vein treatment should wear compression stockings when exercising.
6: Varicose vein treatment should be saved for when you’ve finished having children.
Women often ask us whether they should wait until they’ve finished childbearing before seeking treatment for their varicose veins. We always say ‘no’.
Experiencing venous disease during pregnancy can make a challenging time even more difficult. By treating the veins before further pregnancies occur, mothers will reduce their suffering when they next carry a baby. For women who suffer from venous disease, pregnancy can worsen the symptoms and potentially even progress the disease to a stage where it’s not as easily treated or, worse still, can’t be treated at all. While it’s true that pregnancy will make the symptoms of venous disease worse regardless, its progression will be slowed down by preemptive treatment. We’ve met some women who have been advised to stop having children to avoid worsening their varicose veins. This advice isn’t always correct, and we’re happy to speak to you about this if you, too, have been told to avoid pregnancy.
7: Varicose vein treatment has a long and painful recovery process.
Quite the opposite. In fact, most patients comment on how easy it was for them to recover from their treatments. Once the procedure is complete, we advise patients to avoid the gym or any activity that’s too physically challenging. However, we do encourage them to keep moving to aid their recovery. Patients typically find that they can resume their daily routines the day after their procedure. Some patients even find that they’re back to their normal selves the very same day. While patients may experience some mild localized bruising, they’re able to return to their normal exercise regimes around one week after their procedures.
8: To treat varicose veins, you need to have invasive surgery.
Once upon a time, varicose veins could only be treated by a surgeon, who would make large cuts along the length of any veins that needed removal. This was called vein stripping. As with most medical treatments, modern vein procedures are a far cry from what they once were. Now, varicose veins can be treated in a largely non-invasive way. Typically, procedures are conducted in small clinics and patients are immediately free to go about their normal daily business once they’ve had their treatments.
9: Varicose veins always come back, even after treatment.
With the development of varicose vein procedures has come also a significant improvement in their prognosis. Patients can expect long-lasting results from modern procedures. One such procedure is endovenous thermal ablation, during which lasers are used to tackle the issue, rather than to simply to ease its symptoms. After the procedure is complete, very few patients need any further treatment.
10: ‘Spider veins’ is another word for ‘varicose veins’.
This is untrue. Spider veins tend to be red or purple in color, and are much smaller than varicose veins which, on the other hand, are blue, and bulge at the site of vein damage. While, from a medical perspective, varicose veins must be addressed, spider veins can often be left without treatment.