Why Did My Varicose Veins Come Back?
“I had my varicose veins treated years ago, and now they are back! I thought they were fixed!”
I have heard this statement often enough in clinic. Maybe you are echoing those same thoughts. Wondering why your legs hurt again months, or maybe years after having treatments. Was treatment even beneficial? Why are there bulging veins again?
I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but for the majority of people varicose veins are going to be a life-long battle. Think of treating varicose veins like you would diabetes. You get diagnosed with diabetes and your physician starts you on diabetic medicine to help bring your blood sugar into a normal range. After months of diligently watching your diet and taking your medication, your blood sugar is finally in the normal range. Hooray! Time to celebrate for sure. But are you cured of your diabetes? No. Because what would happen if you stopped taking your medicine? Your blood sugar would start creeping back up, very quickly mind you.
Varicose veins are kind of the same way. They are largely caused by your genetic makeup, something that you can’t alter. Many people are genetically predisposed to making dysfunctional veins. Which means you start treatment for your varicose veins, undergo a series of procedures to close down those dysfunctional veins and slowly but surely your symptoms start to resolve. You remember those symptoms that plagued you daily: achy, heavy, and tired legs that would throb and cramp especially if you were on them for long periods of time. Now suddenly your legs feel young again! You have part of your life back now!
Because you feel so great you don’t come back in a year for your check-up. Maybe a couple years pass and you start noticing that your legs feel tired and achy. Then you notice that there’s a bulging vein that has popped up again. You put off calling the office because you think it’ll just go away (believe me, it won’t). But your symptoms persist, and even get worse. When you finally decide to make an appointment “just in case” you are surprised to learn that your varicose veins have returned.
Your initial reaction may be to think “all that treatment didn’t work if those veins are just coming back!”. One of the biggest misconceptions with varicose veins is that they come back. However, that may or may not be the case. In many instances, the treated part of the vein does not come back but another part of that same vein will break. Thus, making it appear on the surface that it came back. But take a moment to think back to that time before you ever started treatment. Remember how your legs felt? Achy, tired, heavy. Maybe constant throbbing and cramping. Many people’s symptoms, like those just described, go away when they have treatment. Their legs feel normal again. However, your body is going to constantly fight our efforts to eradicate your varicose veins, because they are mainly influenced by factors we can’t control: genetics, age, and hormones.
There are other reasons that varicose veins came back quicker than expected. The wrong type of treatment may have been used initially, or the underlying source veins may not have been completely closed down. Or maybe you did not complete the entire recommended course of treatment outlined by your provider. Too often I have patients who want to stop treatment halfway through the recommended course because they start to see results. Thinking their legs are “cured” they want to walk away without finishing the rest of the treatments. Often it is because their legs feel and look better, but completing the program of treatment is vital to ensure long term results.
Varicose veins are rarely, if ever, a life-threatening disease. However, it is a life limiting disease. If left untreated it can cause symptoms such as leg pain and aching as listed above, but it can also cause blood clots, skin changes including permanent discoloration of the skin, and even lead to venous ulcers. Don’t wait until these complications occur to start treatment! Like most diseases it is much easier to treat and achieve control of a disease before it gets out of hand and start causes complications.