With the temperatures rising and the winter days behind us, it's time to change your wardrobe from trousers and choose to wear shorts and sundresses. However for those affected by varicose veins the decision to bare their legs can be a little harder. Especially for women who maybe self conscious of the appearance of veins.

Varicose veins affect up to 50% of the population, with a small percentage suffering from more advanced venous disease. Varicose and spider veins appear on the legs, ankles and feet they can be caused by a variety of conditions. Most commonly they are hereditary but lifestyle being overweight or conversely exercise, standing or sitting for long periods of time can also contribute to them appearing earlier, as can hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to leg ulcers and other serious problems such as swollen legs, pain and an increased risk of blood clots.

Spring is a great time to seek treatment for varicose veins as there is plenty of recovery time before the summer months set in. Also it is more comfortable to wear compression stockings when the weather is a bit milder although our vein institute is still very busy in the summer.

Treatment usually consists of EndoVenous Laser Therapy and/or Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy, depending on the severity of the disease, which is determined through an ultrasound during the initial consultation. Patients that undergo varicose vein treatment can see results within weeks of the procedure and are getting back to their normal, active lifestyle straightaway.

AuthorNicholas Kemp
CategoriesVaricose Veins

You've noticed blue, red or protruding veins on your legs…. what goes on inside the body to lead to the formation of these veins and can and how are they treated?
What's happening below the skin that can't be seen to the naked eye?

Your body continually works hard to ensure optimal blood circulation - this keeps  your body running smoothly. Arteries circulate oxygen-rich blood from your lungs around the rest of your body, it's the veins which push the blood back to your heart against gravity using a network of one-way valves and surrounding muscles. As you walk the calf muscles act like a pump and compresses the deep veins pushing the blood back up the leg. Superficial veins rely entirely on the ability of the valves to prevent backflow to your feet. This is where people with varicose veins have a problem.

How does this create varicose or spider veins?

In varicose veins the valves, which are supposed to open and close consecutively, do not work properly.  When the valves do not function properly, the blood begins to pool in the vein, which makes it difficult for the muscles to push the blood up for legs. Instead of flowing consecutively from one valve to the next, the blood continues to pool in the vein, increasing arterial venous pressure and the increasing likelihood of congestion while causing the vein to bulge and twist. Because superficial veins have less muscle support than deep veins, they are more likely to become varicose or spider.

What’s the difference between varicose and spider veins?

While both Spider and Varicose veins occur mostly on the legs, their appearance is the easiest way to tell them apart.

Spider veins (Telangectasias) are smaller in comparison to varicose veins. They have a diameter between 1 mm to 3 mm and generally appear in small areas just underneath the surface of the skin. They are usually purple, blue or red in colour and have an appearance like a spider’s web or even a linear pattern. Spider veins are often caused by the backup of blood, hormone changes, exposure to the sun, and injury.

Varicose veins on the other hand are much larger due to the pooling of blood in the vein. They are also very bulky in appearance, often similar to thick ropes that protrude and bulge pushing the surface of the skin upwards.

Will I get spider or varicose veins?

There are many factors that presidpose a person to varicose veins and spider veins. Varicose and spider veins are seen more often in women than in men. Some of the more common factors that induce varicose veins include:

  • Genetics . Family history is one of the most common reason for weak vein valves which can inevitably increase your risk. Approximately half of all people who have varicose veins have a family member who has also had them.

  • Weight Gain. Excess weight and obesity can put extra pressure on your veins which may lead to varicose veins.

  • Hormones. During puberty, pregnancy, and menopause women often develop varicose veins due to changes in the production of progesterone and other key hormones. Find out more about these changes during pregnancy and menopause.

  • Immobility. Sitting or standing for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart. This can be a bigger problem if you sit with your legs bent or crossed.

  • Age. Often the older you are the more common the condition, over time the valves in your veins may weaken and not work as well.

  • Sun exposure. This can cause spider veins on particularly on the face of those with fair skin.

An Ultrasound examination is always performed at the clinic on all patients to assess the competency of all the superficial and deep veins in your leg due to the is a close relationship between the development of spider veins and varicose veins. Up to twenty percent of people with spider veins have underlying incompetent Saphenous veins and ultrasound allows us to detect this. Failure to detect underlying incompetence of superficial veins or saphenous veins leads to much greater complication rates in the treatment of surface veins

AuthorNicholas Kemp

Normal circulation involves blood carrying oxygen being pumped from the heart into the tissues via arteries and then returning de-oxygenated blood carrying other waste products from the tissues back to the heart through the veins. Your arteries might be in good health but if your veins are not working properly and leaking back into the tissues due to varicose veins then in the long term tissue damage to your lower legs can occur leaving you at risk of varicose leg ulcers later in life.  

Walking compresses the deep veins in the leg muscles and this pumps the blood out of the legs. This is the most important mechanism to improve clearance of venous blood out of the legs. If you sit on an aeroplane for a long flight you might be aware of some ankle swelling because you haven’t been walking.

People with venous disease will often find relief from their swollen feet and ankles and alleviation of tired and aching legs by elevating their legs at the end of the day.

There are many and varied medications and devices marketed as circulation boosters (e.g. the brand Revitive).   Medical Graduated Compression Stockings have Evidence Based Medicine to support their use to improve leg vein circulation and improve leg vein health.  

But these methods only provide temporary relief and do not prevent tissue damage from occurring in the long term. An Ultrasound investigation can establish if your aching or swollen legs are caused by poor venous circulation. 

The price of the initial consultation at our Vein Clinic in Brisbane and Toowoomba includes a venous duplex ultrasound examination for which there is a medicare rebate. 

AuthorNicholas Kemp

Queenslanders love summer, it's what we're famous for, but for those living with varicose veins or venous insufficiency the sunny warm months can be three months of nightmares by bringing extra discomfort or self consciousness. Varicose veins can prevent us from enjoying the months when bare legs and trips to the beach are common. Here’s what you need to know about varicose veins during the summer.

Excessive heat expands veins

Frequent exposure to high temperatures can dilate the veins, allowing for more blood to pool, thus causing them to expand or bulge, placing more stress on valves in the veins. Staying cool is the best way to prevent this from happening. Cooling exercises (like swimming or indoor yoga) can help promote blood circulation without exposure to excessive heat.

The sun can agitate varicose veins

While the sun may not cause varicose or spider veins, it can certainly exacerbate them. UV rays weaken the skin’s upper layers, depleting moisture. As a result, the skin can lose some elasticity or ability to move – which may aggravate weak veins. If you have varicose vein symptoms, avoid excessive exposure to the sun or tanning beds, wear sunscreen, and stay hydrated!

Don’t let venus problems derail your ruin plans—follow these tips for a happy, healthy, vein-pain-free summer.

  • Stay Cool. If you have vein problems of any kind, it’s a good idea to keep your body as cool as possible during the summer. Make sure you wear clothes that aren't going to have you burning up in the summer heat and think about hitting the water to cool down if you plan to be outside for a prolonged period of time.

  • Exercise to keep the blood circulating. In addition to offering great respite from the summer heat, swimming is one of the best ways to promote normal circulation and keep blood vessels from dilating. A low-impact exercise that saves you joint and leg muscle pain while increasing your heart rate, swimming pumps the muscles of the lower and upper body to improve circulation to the heart and lungs. Not near a pool or the beach? Keep moving by taking an evening walk around our beautiful city - the walkways along the river and around Kangaroo Point and the Story Bridge are really enjoyable this time of year.

  • Keep hydrated! Keeping your body properly hydrated will help it effectively circulate blood, heal injuries faster and allow for healthier skin. Anyone with vein problems should pay close attention to their hydration levels during the summer, when the heat can easily dry anyone out. If you plan on being outside, take a water bottle everywhere.

  • Flatten out for summer! Opt for summery flats and sandals rather than high heels that keep your calf muscles from effectively pumping blood out of the leg. There’s a major beauty and fitness plus to this one – wearing lower heels makes your calves work a little harder, keeping them curvy and strong!

  • Remember the basics. We've been hearing it for years, but always remember to SLIP, SLOP, SLAP - especially in the summer months! Slather on the sun block and high SPF moisturisers, not just on your legs, but also on your face and nose, where thinner skin is more prone to developing spider veins, and cover up or seek shade if you’ll be outside for long periods of time.

AuthorNicholas Kemp

Is there any truth to the common questions 'does crossing my legs cause varicose veins' and 'will I get varicose veins by wearing high heels every day?'  or are they just old wives tales?

The act of crossing your legs does not cause varicose veins, however, if you have a predisposition to other factors such as genetics, or hormonal fluctuations in women (eg during pregnancy or menopause), your risk could only minimally increase. When crossing your legs, the venous blood pressure in the legs increases, crossing your legs interferes with the flow path and direction of blood from the lower legs back to the heart. The resulting elevated venous pressure can put strain on the valves inside the leg veins,  but even if you have a strong familial tendency, if you stay healthy and active, the muscles in your legs are pumping and that means you’re draining the leg. This one is a MYTH!

Wearing high heels makes your legs look great, but will they have the opposite effect in the long run?  A US study compared the venous blood pressure in the legs of women walking on a treadmill with and without high-heeled shoes.  Normal walking coordinates the foot and calf pump. When the foot is off the floor, the foot veins fill with blood. As the heel and arch of the foot contact the floor, the blood flows into the relaxed calf veins. The calf muscles then contract which propels blood up the deep veins.

High heels change the natural walking motion, shifting the weight to the fore foot and toes and causes the calf muscles to remain contracted. This results in a decrease in the filling of the foot and calf veins and a less forceful calf muscle pump. This lose of efficiency causes pooling of venous blood in the leg. The answer to this question is FACT!

The news isn't all bad! You don't have to stop crossing your legs or wearing heels, but you should be aware of what you are doing. If you constantly cross your legs or wear heels, make an effort to stretch your calf muscles throughout the day to ensure good blood flow in the legs, and mix up your footwear, give your legs (and feet) a break from the heels! And remember to keep active and walk at least 30 min a day to ensure your calves are pumping blood back up the system.

If you notice developing symptoms such as aching, heaviness, fatigue or swelling, have a consultation with a venous specialist, today's treatments have you back on your feet and enjoying life straight away!

AuthorNicholas Kemp

Varicose veins are damaged veins that have become enlarged and sometimes twisted. They appear blue to dark blue in colour due to the accumulation of deoxygenated blood, and can often bulge out from the surface of the skin. Varicose veins can cause mild to moderate pain and are sometimes associated with ulcers or sores on the skin. Although varicose veins can occur anywhere on the body, they are most commonly found on the legs.

What Causes Varicose Veins

While oxygenated blood travels through the body in the arteries, deoxygenated blood travels back to the heart through the veins. Since the pathway back to the heart must go against gravity, veins have a system of small leaflet valves that are designed to prevent the back flow of blood. However, if the leaflets of these valves become damaged so that they do not close properly, the deoxygenated blood can flow back and accumulate in the veins causing varicose veins. The condition is exacerbated if the walls of the veins become weakened. In some cases, these factors are hereditary. However, lifestyle factors, such as being too sedentary, can also contribute to vein valve damage and the weakening of the vein walls. For women, hormonal imbalances can also contribute to the formation of varicose veins.

Dangers Of Varicose Veins

One of the most frequent problems encountered with varicose veins is serious bleeding. This occurs because skin over the varicose veins is often very thin and fragile. Therefore, it is easier for bleeding to occur in these areas if the skin is broken. For this reason, people with varicose veins should be more gentle when drying off with a bath towel and when scrubbing the skin around their varicose veins, such as with a loofah sponge or another type of abrasive cleaning aid. The most serious potential danger of varicose veins is the formation of blood clots.

There are two basic types of blood clots. The first type of blood clot is called superficial thrombophlebitis. This occurs just below the skin and can be painful, but it is usually not life threatening. The second type of blood clot is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is a clot in a deeper vein. This second type of blood clot can be life threatening, in part because it often goes undetected, and because it can potentially break off and travel to the lungs.

Treatment Options For Varicose Veins

There are several types of treatment for varicose veins. Here are the most common treatments:

1. Compression Stockings
You can buy these stockings over the counter or have them prescribed by your doctor. These stockings are designed put pressure against your veins which can relieve pain and prevent accumulation of fluids in your legs and feet. Prescription compression stockings usually provide more pressure than over the counter ones. If you need just a little support, you can also try using support pantyhose.

2. Sclerotherapy

This procedure can be performed in a doctor's office with no anaesthesia. The doctor injects each varicose vein with a chemical that causes the vein walls to swell so much they stick together and then permanently seal shut. The sealed vein then turns into scar tissue, and in most cases, the colour completely fades away. In some cases, it may take more than one sclerotherapy treatment to get the vein to seal permanently and fade.

3. Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy

This procedure is very similar to sclerotherapy except ultrasound is used to guide the needle. This is used for varicose veins that are not as close to the surface and may be difficult for the doctor to view.

4. Stripping

Stripping is a type of surgery where the varicose veins are tied shut and then surgically removed through small cuts in the skin. This procedure does require anaesthesia and approximately four weeks recovery time.

How To Prevent Varicose Veins

Even if varicose veins run in your family, there are several ways you can prevent, or at least reduce, varicose veins. Here are some of the best ways:

1. Walking and Other Exercise

Walking and any other forms of exercise that gets your legs moving creates a blood pump in the leg muscles that strengthens the veins and improves blood flow. Fun activities like gardening, bike riding, tennis, chasing the kids, and playing with your dog can help a lot.

2. Don't Cross Your Legs

When you are sitting, do not cross your legs as this can seriously impair blood flow.

3. Lose Weight

Extra weight puts a lot of extra pressure on your legs and can hasten the formation of varicose veins.

4. Don't Sit Or Stand In One Place Too Long

If you have a sedentary job, try to get up at least once an hour and move around a bit. When you are sitting, try to elevate your legs on a footstool.

AuthorNicholas Kemp