Dealing with Varicose Veins

Over 25 million people in the United States develop varicose veins, according to the Society of Vascular Surgeons. They occur in men and women and, generally are considered a cosmetic, rather than a major, health concern. They usually cause no long-term problems and may display no symptoms. In some cases, however, they can lead to or contribute to other health issues. These may include blood clots, ulcers or pain.

Causes and Symptoms of varicose veins

Visible just below the surface of the skin, varicose veins most commonly occur in the legs and feet, although they can develop in other parts of the body. They are caused when veins with poorly operating valves allow blood to pool instead of flow properly from the leg to the heart. This can create a blue or purple discoloration or may cause the veins to swell reveal their outline as the skin protrudes around them.

Pain, skin discoloration, an itching, swelling or a burning feeling in the legs or a feeling of fatigue or “heaviness” in the leg is frequently symptoms. Phlebitis is the term describing a clot in the varicose vein. The clot causes the vein to become hot, discolored, hard and painful. Because varicose veins are located near the surface of the leg, phlebitis is not as serious as clots in the deep veins that can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Spider veins refer to smaller veins that may appear red or blue closer to the skin’s surface. They often resemble a spider’s web in shape and may also appear on the face.

Who is at risk?

Varicose veins are more likely to develop in women, although they also affect men. Pregnancy raises the probability. Family medical history that shows them may increase likelihood, as well as a family history that includes deep vein thrombosis. Age is also a factor, with varicose veins most likely to occur in those between thirty and seventy years old. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute, as does smoking and standing or sitting for long periods of time.

Diagnosis and treatment

Spider and varicose veins are diagnosed during an examination when a physician will observe the texture and color of prominent veins and how they fill with blood.  The speed of blood flow is then determined by an ultrasound, which also reveals the structure of the veins. This helps to determine if there are underlying issues that need to be explored.

Compression stockings are among the options for treating spider and varicose veins. The stockings are worn daily for several months with the goal of keeping excess blood from flowing backward through the vein’s valve. Wearing the stockings helps alleviate the pain and swelling caused by varicose veins.

The procedure called a sclerotherapy involves injecting a chemical irritant into the affected veins, which causes the vein to scar from the inside out. These veins no longer fill with blood and the body will eventually absorb them. This is an outpatient procedure.

In vein-stripping, another procedure, incisions are made in the groin and below the knee. The diseased vein is then removed from the leg.

A microphlebectomy allows small varicose veins to be removed through very small incisions in the leg. No stitches are necessary and this is also an outpatient procedure.

Finally, a Laser Venous Ablation calls for a thin catheter to be inserted into a vein in the leg. A small fiber laser at the tip of the catheter heats the walls of the veins and destroys them, closing off the vein completely.  This is performed in an outpatient clinical setting and the patient can resume normal activities the following day.

To learn more about varicose veins and treatment options, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.