WHAT ARE VARICOSE VEINS?
Varicose veins are gnarled, enlarged veins. Any vein may become varicose, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs and feet. That’s because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body.
For many people, varicose veins and spider veins — a common, mild variation of varicose veins — are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins lead to more-serious problems.
Varicose veins may also signal a higher risk of other circulatory problems. Treatment may involve self-care measures or procedures by your doctor to close or remove veins.
VARICOSE VEIN SYMPTOMS
Varicose veins may not cause any pain. Signs you may have with varicose veins include:
- Veins that are dark purple or blue in color
- Veins that appear twisted and bulging; often like cords on your legs
When painful signs and symptoms occur, they may include:
- An achy or heavy feeling in your legs
- Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in your lower legs
- Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
- Itching around one or more of your veins
- Bleeding from varicose veins
- A painful cord in the vein with red discoloration of the skin
- Color changes, hardening of the vein, inflammation of the skin or skin ulcers near your ankle, which can mean you have a serious form of vascular disease that requires medical attention
Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they’re smaller. Spider veins are found closer to the skin’s surface and are often red or blue.
They occur on the legs but can also be found on the face. Spider veins vary in size and often look like a spider’s web.
When To See A Doctor
Self-care — such as exercise, elevating your legs or wearing compression stockings — can help you ease the pain of varicose veins and may prevent them from getting worse. But if you’re concerned about how your veins look and feel and self-care measures haven’t stopped your condition from getting worse, see your doctor.
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VARICOSE VEIN CAUSES
Varicose veins are caused by increased blood pressure in the veins. Varicose veins occur in the veins near the surface of the skin (superficial). The blood moves towards the heart by one-way valves in the veins. When the valves become weakened or damaged, blood can collect in the veins. This causes the veins to become enlarged. Sitting or standing for long periods can cause blood to pool in the leg veins, increasing the pressure within the veins. The veins can stretch from the increased pressure. This may weaken the walls of the veins and damage the valves.
Causes of varicose veins can include:
- Age. As you get older, your veins can lose elasticity, causing them to stretch. The valves in your veins may become weak, allowing blood that should be moving toward your heart to flow backward. Blood pools in your veins, and your veins enlarge and become varicose. The veins appear blue because they contain deoxygenated blood, which is in the process of being recirculated through the lungs.
- Pregnancy. Some pregnant women develop varicose veins. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in -designed to support the growing fetus, but it can produce an unfortunate side effect — enlarged veins in your legs. Varicose veins may surface for the first time or may worsen during late pregnancy, when your uterus exerts greater pressure on the veins in your legs. Changes in your hormones during pregnancy also may play a role. Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy generally improve without medical treatment three to 12 months after delivery.
VARICOSE VEIN RISK FACTORS
These factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:
- Hormonal Changes. Women are more likely to develop the condition. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, premenstruation or menopause may be a factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may increase your risk of varicose veins.
- Family history. If other family members had varicose veins, there’s a greater chance you will too.
- Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time. Your blood doesn’t flow as well if you’re in the same position for long periods.
VARICOSE VEIN COMPLICATIONS
Complications of varicose veins, although rare, can include:
- Ulcers. Extremely painful ulcers may form on the skin near varicose veins, particularly near the ankles. Ulcers are caused by long-term fluid buildup in these tissues, caused by increased pressure of blood within affected veins. A discolored spot on the skin usually begins before an ulcer forms. See your doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve developed an ulcer.
- Blood clots. Occasionally, veins deep within the legs become enlarged. In such cases, the affected leg may swell considerably. Any sudden leg swelling warrants urgent medical attention because it may indicate a blood clot — a condition known medically as thrombophlebitis.
- Bleeding. Occasionally, veins very close to the skin may burst. This usually causes only minor bleeding. But, any bleeding warrants medical attention because there’s a high risk it can happen again.
VARICOSE VEIN PREVENTION
There’s no way to completely prevent varicose veins. But improving your circulation and muscle tone can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. The same measures you can take to treat the discomfort from varicose veins at home can help prevent varicose veins, including:
- Watching your weight
- Eating a high-fiber, low-salt diet
- Avoiding high heels and tight hosiery
- Elevating your legs
- Changing your sitting or standing position regularly
VARICOSE VEIN DIAGNOSIS
To diagnose varicose veins, your doctor will do a physical exam, including looking at your legs while you’re standing to check for swelling. Your doctor may also ask you to describe any pain and aching in your legs.
You also may need an ultrasound test to see if the valves in your veins are functioning normally or if there’s any evidence of a blood clot. In this noninvasive test, a technician runs a small hand-held device (transducer), about the size of a bar of soap, against your skin over the area of your body being examined. The transducer transmits images of the veins in your legs to a monitor, so a technician and your doctor can see them.
VARICOSE VEIN TREATMENT
Fortunately, treatment usually doesn’t mean a hospital stay or a long, uncomfortable recovery. Thanks to less invasive procedures, varicose veins can generally be treated on an outpatient basis.
Depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor may suggest one of the following varicose vein treatments:
Ultrasound Sclerotherapy. This treatment is a modality for treating perforators and painful, large varicose veins. The injection therapy, using a small needle, is inserted directly into the vein with ultrasound guidance. There is minimal pain on injection. A foaming solution technique (Foam Therapy), with FDA approved sodium tetradecyl or polidocanol is used. The chemical solution irritates the lining of the vessel causing it to swell and stick together. Ultrasound guidance is a procedure done in the office. Milder solutions are used for spider veins including Glycerin.
Recovery after treatment is quick. You will wear stockings and walk on the treadmill in our office for about 20-30 minutes. The result is a more accurate, non-invasive treatment that will relieve your symptoms.
Injection Sclerotherapy remains the treatment of choice today for spider veins and small varicose veins. The technique has been used for more than fifty years. The smallest of needles is inserted directly into the vein. There is minimal pain on injection. The colored (red, blue) appearance of the veins will fade or disappear. The treated veins are wrapped with an ace (cotton, sponge, and/or coban) or a compression hose is applied.
Endovenous Laser Ablation. Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA), also known as Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT), is a minimally invasive procedure used to correct venous reflux disease, also called chronic venous insufficiency. Venous reflux disease is the underlying pathology that causes varicose veins, and tired, heavy, achy legs. The procedure is performed in the office under local anesthesia. Using ultrasound guidance, a laser fiber is inserted into the refluxing vein via a small nick in the skin. Laser energy is delivered to close the vein permanently. The procedure takes 30-45 minutes, and patients can drive after the procedure.
Once the procedure is complete, the blood is re-routed to healthy veins. Leg circulation will increase after the procedure. The leg is then wrapped in an ace bandage for 48 hours and a compression stocking is worn for 7 days. Walking is encouraged immediately following the procedure, and normal activities can be resumed the same day or the following day. Full activities can be resumed in 7-10 days. Mild pain medications are sometimes necessary. EVLT is highly effective in the treatment of venous reflux, with a long-term success rate of 97%.
Ambulatory Micro-Phlebectomy. Ambulatory micro-phlebectomy (AP) is used to treat bulging and visible varicose veins. It is usually performed as part of a comprehensive vein treatment plan. The procedure is performed in the office with local anesthesia. A series of small nicks about 2-3mm in length are made in the skin along the course of the vein. Using specialized instruments, the vein is carefully removed in small sections. Steri-strips (small pieces of tape) are placed over the tiny incisions. In most cases no sutures are necessary.
Following the procedure, the leg is wrapped in an Ace bandage for 48 hours and a compression stocking is worn for 7 days. Patients are encouraged to walk immediately following the procedure. There is no downtime from driving or routine daily activities. Full activities, including strenuous exercise, can be performed in 7 – 10 days. There is virtually no postoperative discomfort, and pain medications are rarely needed. The results are dramatic, as the once bulging, visible veins are now gone. Sometimes more than one AP procedure is necessary, depending on the extent of the problematic veins.
Video Above: Watch as Dr. Barmada explains what varicose and spider veins are and how Spring of Youth Medical Group can help with treatment.
Contact for Appointment
Spring of Youth Medical Group
1155 Ocean Springs Rd.
Ocean Springs, MS 39564
Monday – Thursday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: Closed