Varicose veins – an annoying health condition, but relief is available

15. January 2016

Veronika Palmiste, a vascular surgeon who sees patients at the East-Tallinn Central Hospital, says that while varicose veins are an unsightly, and in the long-term, a serious health problem, it is possible to find relief through timely intervention.

According to the doctor, genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalances play a major role in the formation of varicose veins and that is why it is not entirely uncommon that first spider veins or vein bumps appear as early as in the teenage years. And it is due to hormonal fluctuations that scores of women all over the world associate the onset of varicose veins with having children. Often, some go as far as to equate pregnancy with visually unattractive legs.

"The most influential risk factor for developing varicose veins at some point in one's life is having parents with the same condition. Genetic predisposition to varicose veins is well-documented and quite common in the general population – we can say that it runs in the families of at least 30% of the population. Add chronic diseases aggravating venous insufficiency, fluctuating body weight and insufficient physical activity, and the condition progresses at a faster pace,” says Dr. Palmiste.

Surgeons come to your help with surgical methods

According to Dr. Palmiste, it is recommended to turn to a surgeon if the patient is interested in the surgical correction of varicose veins – in this case, the primary goal is to make sure that veins are not noticeable. “An appointment with a surgeon is not necessary when the patient simply wants to get an opinion on his condition or on which stockings to buy, because luckily various media channels provide sufficient information on varicose veins and compression aids,” admits Palmiste, adding that she mostly sees well-informed patients whose treatment is continued with various examinations and later on with suitable correction methods. When the extent of the disease has been determined with the help of examinations, a correction method most appropriate for the patient is selected. “Two options are currently available at the East-Tallinn Central Hospital: regular operations as well as less invasive sclerotherapy. “The aim of all interventions is to remove visible varices and keep the disease of varicose veins under control,” adds the vascular surgeon.

What does an ultrasound involve for a patient suffering from varicose veins? The surgeon says that in the case of varicose veins, one option is to undergo an ultrasound scan, a non-invasive examination in which very much depends on its objective and the skills of the medical professional performing it. “At the East-Tallinn Central Hospital, we have been educating ourselves in this field for the last three years and I am glad to admit that we have reached a level at which the specialist performing the scan has a detailed grasp of why the examination is required and how to get the desired answers.” The venous scan is painless and the venous system is assessed in a lying as well as standing position. A correctly performed scan of varicose veins on legs takes at least 20 minutes and during the examination, its findings are explained to the patient. “At the East-Tallinn Central Hospital, the scan is carried out by a specialist who is focused on this area eight hours a day – such a number of examinations is a guarantee for solid experience and on the basis of scan results, a surgeon can move forward with a treatment plan. For varicose veins, an ultrasound scan may be favoured over an MRI or CT scan because the former makes it possible to assess vein dynamics in a standing position. Other examination methods do not provide this option," says Palmiste, adding that an ultrasound scan is of critical importance for those who are planning a corrective procedure. Also, this method is available to those who would like to undergo the scan purely for their peace of mind. However, in the latter case the patient is charged the full cost of the procedure because of the lack of medical indication.

2016 takes off with a free information event for the general public

Dr. Palmiste says that a free varicose vein treatment information event for the general public will be held on 12 January in the big hall of the Magadalena Unit. The event is targeted first and foremost at those who are not among the first in line for a surgery of varicose veins – be it due to their advanced age, comorbid conditions, or even a fear of operations.

“Varicose veins is a very common problem and people do not always find the exact answers they are looking for in articles. Time and again I see patients who have made an appointment simply to get an opinion on their health problem but rule out any chance of getting a corrective procedure done. They are often forced into such a situation due to comorbid conditions. I fully agree that a surgical intervention is not the best treatment option for such patients. That is why we decided to organise an information event for people who exhibit visible varicose veins in their various forms on legs, but at the same time have a number of comorbid conditions due to which an operation is out of question. Still, these patients would like to know whether their varicose veins are dangerous or not and what to do to keep them under control as well as receive an explanation on why their condition is as it is. As is known, compression treatment is the only method except surgical intervention that has proven its effectiveness in keeping venous insufficiency under control. For that reason we have asked physiotherapist Reio Vilipuu from the Orthoses and Supports Centre to participate in the event and explain the effects of compression treatment,” the vascular surgeon comments.

According to Dr. Palmiste, people suffering from varicose veins should not miss the event on 12 January at any cost, because there they will have a chance to talk personally to a doctor and receive answers to their questions. “We have always included a Q&A session in our information events for the general public and this time will not be an exception. Sadly, we will not be able to perform individual check-ups, but visitors will definitely get answers to questions that fall into a surgeon’s area of specialisation. Therefore, this event is especially practical for people who are not interested in undergoing a proper operation, but rather in ‘softer’ approaches that will help them to continue living their lives with a venous insufficiency,” says Dr. Palmiste to encourage all who are interested to show up.