Half of all American women and almost half of American men suffer from some form of vein problem. Although many people suffer from this medical issue, most do not understand it. What exactly are varicose veins?
First, it’s important to understand that the vascular system is a huge network of veins, arteries and capillaries with the heart at the very center. Oxygen and nutrient rich blood is transported by the arteries, and is delivered back to the heart through the veins. Blood flow in the veins must move upwards, against the force of gravity. To deal with this, the veins have a series of one-way valves that open and close to allow the blood to flow upwards. When these valves are weak or faulty, blood pools in the legs causing varicose veins. This condition is known as venous insufficiency.
Varicose Veins occur close to the surface ofthe skin and anywhere throughout the leg. Symptoms typically include:
- A feeling of fullness, heaviness, aching, and tiredness in the legs, especially at the end of the day or after periods of prolonged standing.
- Visible, enlarged veins.
- Swelling of the feet and ankles (due to stagnant blood leaking through the walls of the veins into surrounding tissues).
- Changes in skin color.
- Frequent itching of the skin.
- In more severe cases, the development of non-healing skin ulcers.
Our treatment programs are customized to each patient and take into consideration all important factors. Treatment options typically include:
- Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT):a thin laser catheter seals the faulty vein. Very effective.
- Ambulatory Microphlebectomy:involves making tiny punctures to remove varicose veins. No stitches are required.
- Sclerotherapy:More commonly used to treat spider veins.
For certain conditions, you may require a combination of these treatments. Recovery time for EVLT and microphlebectomy is rapid. Most of our patients return to work and normal activity the next day. Because of the ease of these procedures there is no age limit and they are covered by most insurances.
In normal veins, valves in the vein keep blood moving forward toward the heart. With varicose veins, the valves do not function properly, allowing blood to remain in the vein. Pooling of blood in a vein causes it to enlarge.
This process usually occurs in the veins of the legs, although it may occur elsewhere. Varicose veins are common, affecting mostly women.
- Defective valves from birth (congenitally defective valves)
- Superficial Venous Thrombophlebitis
- Standing for a long time
Having increased pressure in the abdomen may make you more likely to develop varicose veins, or may make the condition worse. This may be caused by:
Primary varicose veins occur because of congenitally defective valves, or without a known cause. Secondary varicose veins occur because of another condition, such as when a pregnant woman develops varicose veins.
The diagnosis is mainly based on the appearance of the leg veins when you are standing or seated with the legs dangling.
At times a physician may order an ultrasound (sonogram) exam of the limb to see blood flow in the veins, and to rule out other disorders of the legs (such as a blood clot). Rarely, an angiography of the legs may be performed to rule out other disorders.
Varicose veins often get worse over time, and because they are related to blood flow, can cause significant complications including skin ulcers that don’t heal and blood clots known as SVT (Superficial Venous Thrombophlebitis).
Avoid prolonged standing if personal or family history indicates you are at risk of developing varicose veins.
- Superficial Venous Thrombophlebitis
- Formation of leg ulcers
- Rupture of a varicose vein
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
- Varicose veins are painful
- They get worse or do not improve with self-treatment, such as keeping the legs elevated or avoiding excessive standing
- Complications occur, including a sudden increase in pain or swelling, fever, redness of the leg, or leg ulcers