THE BLOG

Varicose Veins Need the 'Botox Treatment'

13/01/2013 16:00 GMT | Updated 12/03/2013 09:12 GMT

How many people have botox and fillers?

This question vexes me.

I can hardly pick up a paper or magazine, or turn on the TV without seeing stories about aesthetic treatments - usually Botox and fillers. These treatments seem to be an obsession with the whole of the western world. However, my guess would be that less than 10%, maybe even less than 5% of the population have these procedures.

For the most part, such treatments are completely discretionary. Having them usually makes us look and feel better, however choosing not to have them merely means we continue to look the way nature intended us to - with no adverse medical or health problems.

On the other hand, venous reflux disease, whether visible varicose veins or the more difficult to detect "hidden varicose veins", are known to affect 30 - 40% of the population. Treatment of the condition is often needed for medical reasons as well as cosmetic improvement. Successful treatment allows patients to return to normal life without any further problems; however failure to treat the affected leg veins can lead, in the medium to long term, to venous eczema, skin damage, phlebitis (clots in the leg veins), venous bleeding and even leg ulcers.

Over recent years there have been many developments in procedures to treat varicose veins and "hidden varicose veins" which are much more effective, minimally invasive (the new Venaseal treatment is carried out through tiny "key-hole" incisions) and performed under local anaesthetic as walk-in walk-out procedures, substantially reducing recovery time for patients.

As this condition can affect a person's health if left untreated, I find it quite surprising how little there is in the media to highlight the condition and the long term effects if left untreated.

In my experience, there is a popular misconception that varicose veins only affect the elderly however; this isn't always the case.

We have known for many years that varicose veins can affect young people as the tendency to develop varicose veins runs in families. Research I carried out in the early 1990's showed that the failure of valves in the leg veins that causes venous reflux disease are present in 1 in 20 girls by the age of 9 and 1 in 9 girls by the age of 18 years. The results for boys would probably be same but in the 1990's when we did this study, we weren't aware that males and female have roughly the same prevalence of venous reflux disease.

In the last year I have treated a 12 year old boy with some of the worst varicose veins I had ever seen and in the last ten years have treated many teenagers with severe varicose veins.

So why is there an impression that varicose veins only affect the elderly when this is so clearly wrong?

The simple reason is few people, if any, talks about them.

With the results of treatment varying widely depending on technique used and doctor performing it, there needs to be an increased public awareness about the different sorts of varicose veins and different treatment options available if patients and family doctors want the lowest risk of complications and recurrence in the future.

These sorts of discussions are wide-spread about Botox and fillers - the same is needed for varicose veins and venous reflux disease.