It is estimated that one in four people in the world could have thick varicose veins and seven out of ten cosmetic problems such as fine veins and spider veins.
Although this health problem can manifest itself in anyone and at any age, the doctor Francisco Loyola Echaniz, member of the Spanish Society of Vascular and Interventional Radiology (SERVEI) and radiologist at the Interventional Radiology Unit of the University Hospital of Donostia, points out the existence of a series of non-modifiable risk factors that would influence the development.
“One of the most important reasons for being more prone to developing varicose veins is genetic inheritance. In this aspect, the inheritance of both parents influences it. If one of the two has suffered from varicose veins, the probability of suffering from them is 50%; while if both have suffered, this probability increases to 70%”, he explains.
Other non-modifiable risk factors would be age and sex.
“Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in charge of controlling blood flow, causing blood to pool and the walls of the veins to weaken,” says Dr. Loyola Echaniz.
Also, the hormonal characteristics of women make them more prone to varicose veins. “Pregnancies, changes prior to menstruation or menopause and hormonal treatments can influence the appearance of varicose veins.”
How to avoid the appearance of varicose veins
“There are no tricks that work” to prevent the appearance of varicose veins against genetic, age and sex factors, says the specialist.
Yes, they can be avoided when varicose veins are the result of other risk factors such as obesity or being overweight, being sedentary or spending prolonged periods of time sitting or standing.
“An active and healthy lifestyle is the best ally to prevent, as far as possible, the appearance of spider veins and varicose veins on the legs and, at the same time, improve the symptoms of existing ones and prevent them from progressing to stages more serious”, recommends the doctor.
The habits that can help maintain healthy legs are:
● Use compression stockings if you suffer from venous insufficiency or work long hours standing up.
● Avoid shoes that press on the foot.
● Follow a diet rich in fiber and low in salt.
● Exercise. Walking, swimming and cycling are the best for varicose veins.
● Control your weight.
● Hydrate well.
The myths surrounding varicose veins
Like any disease that combines health and aesthetics, varicose veins and spider veins are a subject prone to myths and misinformation.
Dr. Francisco Loyola Echaniz cites as an example all the creams that are sold on the market to prevent or eliminate varicose veins.
“The active principles of creams do not penetrate the venous wall, so topical creams, oils, gels and lotions can improve, at most, the symptoms of varicose veins, but in no case act on the cause that causes them”, he argues.
The SERVEI spokesperson also highlights another common myth: exercise as a measure to make varicose veins disappear.
“It’s the same as with creams. Exercising and staying active can improve the symptoms of varicose veins and prevent them from getting worse, but by no means eliminate them.”
In addition to these, among the most entrenched myths surrounding varicose veins, Loyola Echaniz highlights the belief that they are an exclusive problem of women and the elderly.
“It is true that varicose veins are more common in women than in men and in elderly people than in young people, but the truth is that varicose veins are a problem that affects both sexes and can occur at any age.” explain.
Regarding treatment, the vascular and interventional radiologist highlights two other fairly widespread myths.
On the one hand, the one who maintains that varicose veins come back after treatment: “If the treatment is adequate, the varicose veins are removed forever. The patient may develop new varicose veins, but they will be different from those that have already been treated.”
On the other hand, the idea that treatments for varicose veins should not be done in the summer. “It is true that in purely aesthetic cases, in which compression stockings are needed and the improvement is not immediate, it is more convenient to treat it at other times of the year, but in general varicose veins can be treated throughout the year “, he concludes.
In general, there is no curative medical treatment for this pathology. If the pain is intense, the varicose veins are complicated by thrombophlebitis and then analgesics, anti-inflammatories and subcutaneous heparin may be temporarily indicated.
Elastic compression stockings are effective in controlling symptoms and preventing skin complications. Of course, they are only effective if they are used regularly, says the Spanish Society of Vascular and Interventional Radiology on its website.
Sclerotherapy with foam
It is the least invasive treatment. It is carried out through the controlled injection into the varicose veins of various sclerosing drugs. This treatment, although minimally invasive, is not applicable to all cases.
They are currently gaining acceptance as they avoid surgery and general anesthesia.
Catheters are applied that, using various forms of energy (laser, radio frequency, mechanical systems…) are introduced into the varicose vein, coagulating and destroying it. Thus, a very effective, fast and minimal risk treatment can be carried out today. Due to their effectiveness and minimal invasiveness, these therapies are increasingly replacing classic surgery.
Surgical treatment of varicose veins
It is the traditional treatment. It is effective and involves the removal of the entire diseased vein. Its advantages are the already proven good results and its disadvantage is that it involves an operation with general anesthesia and a recovery time of several weeks.
With any of the forms of treatment described, a long-term relapse can occur so that 1 in 7 people treated will have several again 5 years later.
This recurrence may be due to the formation of new varicose veins, because the venous valves are weakened in another sector, to the appearance of episodes of TVP or because the original treatment was incomplete or insufficiently planned.