‘I’d always thought that they were something that affected older, inactive people. I looked at my lifestyle and thought, ‘I can’t be a candidate for this.’ Eventually, the pain became something I couldn’t ignore’ – Summer Sanders
I’ll be the first to admit that I can straddle the line between mild concern and hypochondria when it comes to matters of my health. I know the essential ‘what does this sound/look/feel like to you’ drives my friends and family crazy. My problem is I’ve spent the last 12 years working in the health service so I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen the 21-year-old university student have a subarachnoid haemorrhage whilst playing squash. I’ve seen the 35-year-old new dad have a stroke and I’ve seen the 45-year-old woman have an aneurysm so large that it changed her personality completely after surgery and she left her family and moved to the other end of the country. I know they may sound like one-off cases but they all happened in the hospital I worked at. My point is, these things happen. So when i notice something that’s not quite right, I want to get it checked out asap.
From since I can remember my left ankle has always been more cankled that my right. It’s never really bothered me, I mean, I just figured ankles were like boobs, no one’s are completely symmetrical right? Then last weekend I was inspecting a small bruise on the bottom of my left leg, when I stood up and noticed that what I originally thought was a small bruise was actually quite large, and there are lumps, going from my ankle most of the way up to my knee. I started to panic. I mean, they look exactly what I imagine varicose veins to look like, but I’m 33. 33 year olds don’t get varicose veins right? So after consulting good old Google Diagnose and convincing myself I had Deep Vein Thrombosis despite having none of the symptoms listed on NHS Choices. I thought it probably best to step away from the lap top, have a gin & tonic and make an appointment to see my doctor. Not before whats-apping pictures of my lumpy lower legs to all my friends (and my mum – of course) to get their opinions too.
Being the chronic over thinker that I am, the weekend between discovering the lumps and having my GP confirm what I thought, I’d gone round and round in circles about what this all means. I’m only 33, am not nor have ever been (to the very best of my knowledge) pregnant and I exercise 5 if not 6 days a week so why the heck has this suddenly happened? As well as being lumpy, blue and downright unsightly, they also make my leg ache, particularly after exercise, and I often have a feeling of blood rushing up my leg or feeling of the blood flow getting stuck, which isn’t pleasant at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that in the grand scheme of ailments, varicose veins are up there with acne and female facial hair; wholly unattractive but medically no cause for concern. But I’m a girl and I’m vain. I’m too vain for varicose veins.
The bottom line, obviously aside from the health implications that can come from them like ulcers and in serious cases, thrombosis, I just don’t want them. I don’t want to have to wear ugly compression tights when they flare up. Steph’s getting married next year and now I’m going to have to wear a maxi dress which I hadn’t planned on doing. My legs are not my best feature and I feel like I have enough body issues as it is, so the fact the more bearable half of them has now become blue and blotchy is a bloody veiny nightmare.
There’s a big argument going on at the moment between various professionals as to whether treatment should be available on the NHS or not. You used to be able to get them stripped (which sounds like medieval torture to me) until 2001 when NICE decided that they’re just a cosmetic issues and anyone wanting them treated would have to pay privately. Then in 2014 it was decided that sclerotherapy (injecting foam into your veins sealing them closed) would be available in very severe cases. Some GPs argue that seeing as compression socks can now be prescribed as treatment, but need to be replaced every 2 months, is it not cheaper in the long run to just pay for a procedure, get rid of them and be done with it? It’s not for me to say what I think NHS money should be spent on, and I will be the first to agree there are loads of other life threatening procedures that should be paid for before varicose vein removal. That’s not to say were it available, I wouldn’t take advantage of it.
Anyway, the sad fact if I’m just going to have to come to terms with the fact that I have them now and it looks like they’re here to stay. Dave’s helped a ton, mainly by starting to refer them as my ‘double v’s’ which makes them sound like some new urban sportswear; ‘I’m rocking the double v’s at the weekend’. I’m going to try to wear compression socks whenever feasible and keep on exercising to keep blood circulation good. Other than that I’m not really sure there’s much else I can go other than to learn to love my double v’s, and perhaps pick up some extra maxi dresses – it’s an excuse to go shopping if nothing else!