Fortunately, science has come up with new safer treatments that can counter the ill effects of varicose veins even before they get worse.
By Terrie B. Fucanan
THEY'RE painful and unsightly. They increase as we age, make us feel tired and heavy and may in time develop into something more serious than an aesthetic problem.
They're called varicose veins. And they're present in most of us more than we ever want to acknowledge. In America, Womenshealth.gov reports about 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men suffer from some form of vein problem. And those who are 50 and above are affected with a ratio of one out of two.
It remains unclear if Filipinos are below or above these statistics, but one thing's for sure: Those who frequently sit or stand, subject their legs-the most vulnerable to varicose veins-to constant pressure, inherited the predisposition, are pregnant, overweight and exposed to the sun for long hours are all susceptible to varicose veins. So that makes, well, most of us.
The troubling fact is varicose veins are not just unpleasant to the eyes; if they grow bigger and bigger as we age they might rupture and cause hemorrhage. In some cases, they can cause life-threatening blood clots that can block the functions of the heart and lungs. Sores or skin ulcers usually develop around varicose veins.
The good news
Fortunately, science has come up with new safer treatments that can counter the ill effects of varicose veins even before they get worse. One of them is sclerotherapy, a nonsurgical outpatient procedure done by injecting a solution into the affected vein to seal it shut. The injected vein turns into a scar tissue, allowing circulating blood to pass through the other normally functioning veins.
According to the website of The American Society for Plastic Surgery (http://www.surgery.org/), sclerotherapy was developed as early as the 1920s. It was primarily used to treat the smaller, purple-colored versions of varicose veins called spider veins (or telangiectasias).
Today, however, science has improved the procedure and developed new sclerosing agents with the least side effects, such as bruising, that normally appear after the micro-needle pricks the skin.
Despite its long history, sclerotherapy is not yet widely available in the Philippines.
The pharmacist Susan Co-Ong says the reason could be that the procedure requires a well-trained cosmetic reconstructive surgeon or a phlebologist (a vein specialist), who has very gentle and precise hands.
"People still don't know where to go for varicose-vein treatments, because very few clinics offer them here," adds Ong. "The procedure looks very easy but the doctor has to be very cautious or he might inflict more damage than improvement on the skin."
Ong offers sclerotherapy and other phlebology procedures at Prettylooks Hi-Tech Beauty Center for Men and Women, where she is the CEO and head pharmacist. The procedures are done by Dr. Rizalino de la Fuente, a respected cosmetic reconstructive surgeon and phlebologist, who will soon open a sister company for Prettylooks that will specialize in vein treatments.
For the sclerotherapy procedures, Ong uses only Trombovan, a sclerosing agent from Montreal, Canada, that contains Sodium Tetradecyl Sulfate, Polidocanol and Hypertonic Saline that effectively closes (or in medical jargon "collapses") the affected varicose or spider veins with the least side effects and bruising.
Other temporary side effects of sclerotherapy on the injected area include stinging, red raised patches of skin, small skin sores, brown lines and groups of fine red-blood vessels. All these usually disappear after a few days.
As one who has introduced breakthroughs in cosmetic and reconstructive procedures in the Philippines from abroad, Ong has tried sclerotherapy using various kinds of sclerosing agents. But she has found Trombovan with the best results.
She also warns against clinics that offer sclerotherapy with the missing active ingredients in their solutions. "Patients just keep coming back and waste more money because of poor results," she said.
At Prettylooks Dr. de la Fuente conducts sclerotherapy by first assessing the affected veins. "There are big varicose veins that cannot be treated by sclerotherapy anymore and would need a surgical procedure, like surgical ligation and stripping," he explains.
If the veins can be treated with a simple injection, the affected area is cleansed first. The microneedle with the sclerosing solution is then inserted into the vein, and then a cleansing solution is again applied on the area. A topical anesthesia may be administered to very painful cases. Finally, an elastic bandage is applied to speed up healing. The procedure takes only a few minutes, depending on the number of veins to be treated.
Dr. de la Fuente says his sclerotherapy clients range from their twenties to seventies. But he recommends those with very large varicose veins to seek immediate treatment.
"Very large protruding varicose veins, especially those in the feet, can be dangerous, because only a very thin layer of skin protects it from getting exposed," he explains. "But in time when the skin is scraped by the clothing we wear or when we bump into a sharp object, the vein may rupture."
While sclerotherapy has very high success rates and the collapsed veins will no longer reappear, more abnormal veins in other parts of the body can develop over time. So after each procedure, Dr. de la Fuente reminds his patients to observe the following preventive measures:
"Avoid tight clothing; exercise to improve your blood circulation; do not cross your legs when sitting; elevate your legs when resting; do not stand or sit for long periods of time; and wear elastic support stockings if possible."
Womenshealth.gov also advises eating a low-salt diet rich in high-fiber foods, as this "reduces the chances of constipation which can contribute to varicose veins, and to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and to limit spider veins on the face."
Prettylooks also offers aesthetic tattoo, lip augmentation, nonsurgical facelift, nose lift, bust lift, breast augmentation, butt lift, serious deep pore facial, whitening tablet, instant whitening, warts removal, freckles removal. It also has a branch in Cebu City. Visit UG7, Citiland Mega Plaza, 1907 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, or call 687-7507, or log on to www.prettylooks.com.