Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins

Leg veins are arranged as a complicated network of blood vessels that have the ability to expand and accommodate blood when needed. These veins are distributed in two major groups of networks.

The deep venous system runs within the muscle layer of the leg and its function is to drain blood from the leg back to the heart.

The superficial system runs outside of the muscles of the leg in variable degrees of depths from the skin, ranging from the very superficial that can be seen through the skin as blue/green lines, to the main “axial” or “truncal” branches that are not directly seen and can only be studied through a Doppler ultrasound examination.

There is also a third group of veins that act as connectors or “communicators” between these two systems. These veins have the all-important task of conveying blood from the superficial system to the deep system as they run through the tissues in between the two systems. These communicator veins can also become problematic when they fail to move the blood from superficial to deep. Instead they move blood from deep (which usually has higher pressure) to superficial, leading in turn to failure of the superficial system i.e. varicose veins.

All these veins share features that differentiate them from the arterial system (which does the opposite function to veins – sending blood away from the heart to the tissues). They have a weaker muscle layer in their walls than arteries, which enables them to expand and accommodate more blood when there is need to (accordingly they are called capacitance vessels). This accounts for the occasional appearance of varicose veins as unsightly bulges under the skin. Another feature is the presence of valves within their internal walls. These valves function to allow the passage of blood from superficial to deep (and from distant to near) along the vein without allowing it to return back as they get firmly shut against any flow in the opposite direction. Again, if these valves fail to do that, the blood will flow in the wrong direction to the superficial system causing the incompetent bulging varicose veins.

Over the years, there have been several approaches to the treatment of varicose veins ranging from; keep an eye and do nothing, use of compression bandages, use of medical grade compression stockings or surgical approach in the form of ligation of the incompetent vein and its stripping off with or without multiple stab incisions at various intervals to pull the vein in segments using a hook (phlebectomy). The last two decades have seen a huge improvement in the way we look at venous disease as well as manage it. Please go to the section about our services to find out about the various ways we can manage vein disease at the Clinic, including Endovenous Laser Ablation EVLA, Ultrasound guided Sclerotherapy UGS and Microsclerotherapy, and the evidence on which these are considered the gold standard for successfully treating varicose veins by specialist phlebologists and surgeons in Australia and overseas.

Further Information

Listen to Dr Nicola discussing the treatment of Varicose Veins

Medical Animation Movie on Venous Disorders from Sigvaris