Blasting the legs with high energy sound waves could be a radical new way to treat unsightly varicose veins – without the need for surgery. The experimental treatment, which takes just minutes, means patients are left scar-free.
Doctors use a high-tech and painless form of focused ultrasound, which is fired through the skin to destroy bulging and unsightly veins below the surface.
Experts predict the cutting-edge method, known as echotherapy, will transform management of the condition, which affects tens of millions of people in the UK.
‘This will completely alter the way we treat varicose veins,’ says Professor Mark Whiteley, the first British surgeon to use the technique. He has treated a dozen patients at his private clinics in London, Guildford and Bristol. Varicose veins occur when the wall of the vein starts to weaken and it becomes swollen and out of shape. Leg veins carry blood back up to the heart and, as the blood is moving against gravity, the veins have to work very hard to carry it in the right direction.
To help, there is a series of one-way valves in the leg veins. As blood passes through, the valves close, stopping gravity from pulling it down again.
But when vein walls weaken, which can occur due to genetics, ageing, pregnancy or being overweight, these valves do not close properly. Blood starts to pool, a phenomenon known as venous reflux, causing veins to bulge through the skin.