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Veins – the early symptoms
Skin Institute
March 30, 2017

Did you know that varicose vein disease can start a long time before the veins become enlarged and twisted?

The symptoms and related issues of varicose vein disease are varied and more common than most people realise. Because they are so varied and develop so slowly, these early symptoms can make varicose vein disease hard to diagnose, and therefore many people remain in the dark about the ongoing effects. Our expert veins team want to help you understand more about the symptoms and effects of varicose veins – read on to find out everything you need to know, as the earlier you receive treatment, the less treatment you will need, and the quicker your recovery will be.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are caused by either primary or secondary disease. Primary disease, the most common cause of varicose veins, occurs because of an inherited weakness of the one way valves in the veins of the leg. Secondary causes of varicose veins include deep vein thrombosis (DVT), deep venous obstructions, increase in pressure in deep veins and an increase on the pressure on the veins in the abdomen like during pregnancy.

Varicose vein disease can be one of those “silent” health issues that sneak up unnoticed at the start as people don’t associate their symptoms with vein disease.

Common symptoms with varicose vein disease are:

Leg pain/aching – achy or a heavy sensation, especially if it gets worse as the day progresses, or a feeling of tightness in your calves after exercise.

Swelling – swelling in your legs, feet and ankles whether it is painful or not.

Weak legs – muscle fatigue in the legs.

Leg cramps – muscle cramping in your lower legs at rest, especially at night.

Tenderness – redness or sensation of warmth in your lower extremities.

Sores/rashes – sores or rashes in your lower extremities that is relieved when you elevate your legs.

Flaky/itchy skin – the most common symptom.  Dry, itchy, skin around your ankle.

Pigmentation changes – discolouring in your skin around the ankle, that can appear like freckles in its early stage.

Hair loss of the lower legs – more noticeable in men

Ulcers – painful sores on the skin that often take more than a month to heal. Normally develop on the inside of the leg, just above the ankle.

Restless leg syndrome – uncontrollable urge to keep your legs moving, especially in bed at night.

Spider veins – a group of dilated veins (usually red or blue) that appear close to the surface of the skin and look like spider webs or tree branches.

Some women experience a worsening of symptoms during menstruation.

Warmer summer months, pregnancy or long periods of standing can often lead to a worsening of symptoms.

Who is at risk?

Varicose veins affect around 20% of the population at some point in their lives. They can affect both men and women, and tend to be more of a problem as we grow older, but younger people, especially women who have been through pregnancy, are also vulnerable. Also, people who have jobs that involve standing for prolonged periods of time (e.g. nurses, flight attendants and teachers) tend to have worse varicose veins and more symptoms from their varicose veins.  “Being on your feet a lot can exacerbate the problem; pregnancy also tends to make it worse,” says Skin Institute’s head of veins, surgeon Mr Stephen Benson, “But neither of these will usually cause varicose veins – the tendency is mostly inherited; it runs in the family.”

Varicose veins also increase the risk of superficial thrombophlebitis (SVT) and rarely deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  Although DVT due to varicose veins is rare it is potentially life threatening.


Acting on early symptoms

Veins and their early symptoms can be uncomfortable, which can limit your everyday activities. Acting early before varicose veins start to bulge and symptoms worsen is worthwhile for your health and well being. We offer vein assessments without referral from your GP.  The diagnosis is made via a Doctor assessment and Ultrasound examination done on site at the Skin Institute clinic. The most appropriate treatment will be recommended based on the findings of this assessment.

Thankfully, the majority of vein conditions can now be treated without surgery the current published research clearly identifies the most appropriate treatments now are not surgical,” Mr Stephen Benson, says. In fact, the long-term effectiveness of non-surgical treatment of veins is over 90%, compared to surgical methods that have a long-term effectiveness of less than 70%.

Treatment options

Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy (UGS) has been shown to have great success rates on its own for certain types of varicose veins (for some more complicated recurrent varicose veins it can sometimes be your only choice of treatment). UGS tackles tortuous veins and veins that are simply too small for other treatments to address.

Endovenous Ablation, Laser or Radiofrequency (EVA) is a technique that is ultrasound-guided, and a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins performed under local anaesthetic. It uses radiofrequency or laser energy to cauterise and close the varicose veins in the legs.

Sclerotherapy is a treatment that works by injecting a special sclerosant solution into the veins, damaging, shrinking, collapsing or dissolving them, which over time results in the disappearance of the veins.

Whilst non-surgical approaches are now the most appropriate treatments for the majority of patients with varicose veins, surgery is still occasionally indicated. The most common varicose vein operation is called ligation and striping; it involves a small cut in the groin at the top end of the affected vein. This vein is tied off (ligated), to stop blood flowing through it, and then is carefully pulled (stripped) out of the leg through incisions. This procedure requires general anaesthetic and full theatre facilities.

Book a full clinical assessment or a brief free check with one of our vein specialists if you have any of the early symptoms mentioned above.  At Skin Institute, our expert veins team takes care of the whole process – from the initial check through to post-treatment care. We are an Affiliated Provider to Southern Cross Healthy Society for contracted skin cancer and varicose vein treatments where medical necessity criteria apply.***

Book your veins assessment today.  Call 0800 SKIN DR (754 637) or visit www.skininstitute.co.nz

***Where medical criteria are met in accordance with your insurance policy.