Oh how I wish these lovely legs belonged to me but, as the title suggests, I was certainly at the back of the queue when legs were being given out and, have what my vascular consultant in Melbourne termed ‘hormonal skin’, which in the nicest possible way really means – puffy, veiny pins – cheers Dr Lou!

However, all is not lost for those of you that might suffer from ‘unsightly’ veins, be they varicose or thread – I had both, which is nice but not altogether unusual as the two very often go hand in hand – the varicose (tubular green bulges) tend to ‘feed’ the smaller, but no less unattractive ‘spider or thread veins’. If left, some of these bigger veins can cause skin discolouration and, more serious issues such as thrombosis and leg ulcers. So for me, it wasn’t just about the aesthetic – my veins caused me discomfort too, as my legs often throbbed and felt heavy if I walked long distances, stood for long periods or even spent time in the heat (hard to avoid when you live in Australia!).

So, after years spent covering up my loathsome lower limbs, I felt it was time I did something about it before I got too old and they never saw the light of day again! Enter Melbourne based Dr Louis Loizou, Fellow of the Australasian College of Phlebology (ACP) and his practise aptly named Vein Solutions. There were a number of treatment options available to me, ranging from surgery to laser ablation for the bigger ones and, microsclerotherapy or ultrasound guided sclerotherapy for the smaller ones. Ooooo choices choices! After careful consultation and a duplex ultrasound of my legs, Dr Lou recommended laser ablation or EVLT™ (Endovenous Laser Therapy) for the larger (varicose) ones, and sclerotherapy for the smaller (thread) ones.

EVLT™ is the latest method for the treatment of major veins which would previously have been treated by ‘stripping’ surgery under general anaesthetic. The procedure involves the placement of a laser fibre with ultrasound guidance into the abnormal vein (which in my case was in my inside left thigh) via a tiny incision under local anaesthesia. The vein is then surrounded with local anaesthetic. The laser fibre is removed slowly whilst the laser is activated which destroys the vein wall along the treated length. The procedure involves virtually no discomfort and the published success of EVLT™ treatment is between 98% with significantly fewer complications as compared to ‘stripping’ surgery. As well as the hidden varicose in my thigh, I also had some more prominent, hose-pipe looking veins on my lower leg, which Dr Lou removed by making small incisions and pulling them out, rather like spaghetti :-0  Listen, it sounds horrific, but if Mr Zodle can watch (he normally gets a little nauseous around stuff like this), it was really very manageable. I think it also helped that the whole procedure was performed in Dr Lou’s practise as opposed to a hospital environment.

leg after procedure

My leg immediately after treatment

Whilst the photos make it look pretty brutal, it was virtually pain-free and the two week recovery period, where I had to wear the super-sexy surgical stocking, just flew by. The bruising, as you can see, was extensive and even though the ‘feeder’ or varicose veins were now gone, once this had dissipated, I still had the next course of treatment to look forward to, albeit a little less invasive (see below).

My leg 10 days after treatment

My leg 10 days after treatment

Microsclerotherapy / Direct Vision Sclerotherapy. The term “sclerotherapy” comes from the Greek word “sclero” which means ‘to make hard’. The vein is injected with a sclerosant detergent solution via a micro-fine needle which then reacts to the product by converting the abnormal vein into a type of bruise. Once formed, the vein feels a little hard and this is the signal to your body’s immune system to start dissolving the vein. Eventually the vein is absorbed and disappears. For surface veins which are often numerous, widespread and usually require several treatments, this is considered the current Gold Standard of all treatments.

I underwent the majority of my treatment in Melbourne but as I have the ability to grow spider veins at an alarming rate, I set about finding Dr Lou’s equivalent in the UK, as there was still work to be done on the stubborn little blighters! My consultant here in the UK is vascular surgeon, Mr Philip Coleridge Smith from the British Vein Institute. lf you’re lucky, you’ll get away with just a few treatments and be done, but I am still undergoing treatment three years later, which is more about maintenance as opposed to anything major. From time to time, Mr Coleridge Smith will run the ultrasound over my legs to check there is nothing more problematic/sinister going on with my deep veins, and continues to inject the smaller, more superficial veins to keep me happy.

In summary…

Look, my legs will never be perfect, even without veins, but they are a darn sight better than they used to be and in the summer, on the rare days when the sun shines here, I’m able to get them out in a modest skirt or shorts 🙂 This treatment isn’t for everyone – for example, those with a tendency toward migraines may not be suitable as the solution that’s injected into the veins can sometimes, but not always, trigger a migraine attack. However, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this treatment if you’re deemed suitable by your GP or specialist because, not only am I now able to display my pins without a sense of dread about how they look but, I’m also a lot more comfortable now that my circulation has been partly restored to factory settings 🙂

This treatment was definitely not in vain…