You might think of varicose veins as an older woman’s problem, but it may actually have more to do with your lifestyle than your gender.
Varicose veins are common in adults. More women than men seek treatment for varicose veins, but men are also at risk for weakened and distended veins. Increasing age and physical inactivity make them more likely to occur.
Who gets varicose veins?
A 2005 review of studies about who gets varicose veins and why says that geographic location is a factor in the frequency of varicose veins. Western nations, where physical inactivity is common, have the highest reported incidence of varicose veins.
Overall, estimates of occurrence of varicose veins in men ranged from about 17 percent to more than 50 percent.
Even though men also develop varicose veins, they are much less likely to seek out treatment. This could be a problem since large untreated veins may cause venous hypertension that may lead to ulcers and tissue damage.
What are the treatments for varicose veins?
Though some people manage varicose veins by wearing support hose and keeping their legs elevated, sometimes multiple symptoms prompt patients to seek treatment.
There are three basic types of treatment for varicose veins. A new study says they are all safe and effective, which gives you good options depending on your preferences and symptoms.
The three major treatment options for varicose veins are:
- Endovenous laser (thermal) ablation. A guided laser heats up and kills off the targeted vein. Endovenous radiofrequency ablation is a similar option that also treats veins through thermal damage.
- Sclerotherapy. Your doctor injects the vein with an irritating substance that causes the blood vessel to close. This is effective for small “spider veins”.
- Surgical vein ligation and stripping. This involves tying off and removing the damaged vein. Similarly, there is ambulatory phlebectomy which removes the varicose veins through a tiny (1mm) incision during an outpatient procedure.
Study finds three major procedures equally good
Researchers from the University of Aberdeen compared the effectiveness of the three most widely used procedures (sclerotherapy, laser ablation and surgical stripping) for the treatment of varicose veins. The results of the study appear in The New England Journal of Medicine.
They found no significant differences in quality of life measures for patients who had any of the three different therapies.
Vascular medicine specialist Natalie Evans, MD, did not take part in the study but is familiar with all three procedures. “Endovenous laser ablation and surgical stripping appear to be somewhat superior to foam sclerotherapy, in terms of quality of life measures, but the differences were not huge,” she says.
Results show all three treatments tended to produce the desired result, but complications were less frequent after laser treatment.
Dr. Evans says that although it’s good news that all three treatments help patients relieve symptoms, everyone is different. “I think it’s hard to say from this study alone that one particular procedure is superior to the other because, as with many large studies, you can’t generalize the results to every single patient that is out there. So, I think it’s really important that you have a good vein specialist who can kind of guide you to what the most appropriate and most effective treatment is.”
If you have varicose veins or if you are experiencing symptoms such as leg cramping or leg heaviness, you might have problems with your venous circulation. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and about all the possible treatment options available.