Varicose and Spider Vein Overview & Treatment Options
Varicose veins are swollen, dark blue or purple blood vessels that you can see and feel beneath the skin. They often look like twisted cords, and usually appear on the calves, thighs, inside of the legs, and ankles. People with varicose veins often experience leg swelling, tired legs, restless legs, night cramps, itching, and skin darkening, especially at the ankles.
Causes of Varicose Veins
The veins in your legs are tubes that carry blood from your legs to your heart. One-way valves are located along these tubes. These valves are supposed to only allow the blood to flow upwards, out of your legs, and back to your heart. Occasionally, a problem will develop with the valves that allow the blood to flow backward and build up in the vein. This is known as reflux. When reflux occurs, extra pressure is placed on the walls of the vein. This causes the vein to expand.
From left to right: Normal vein with valve open, normal vein with valve closed,
varicose vein with “leaky” valve.
Signs, Symptoms and Diagnosis of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins may cause an aching or burning feeling in your legs, pain, itching around the vein, swelling, color changes in the skin or non-healing sores. An ultrasound examination is often performed to evaluate the “health” of your veins. This procedure uses sound waves to visualize what is happening inside the body and is painless.
Consequences of Untreated Venous Reflux
If not treated, venous reflux may cause pain, swelling and varicose veins. These problems may progress to permanent darkening of the skin, bleeding, blood clots, non-healing ulcers and infection.
Large varicose veins and early skin changes from venous reflux.
Increased pigmentation, eczema and swelling caused by more advanced disease.
Venous stasis ulcer, which is one of the worst complications of untreated venous reflux.
Vein Treatment Options
Treating varicose veins will be determined on a case by case basis. Most treatment begins with conservative measures to shrink the affected veins. More in-depth treatments such as sclerotherapy, laser ablation and phlebectomy may all be considered for more severe cases.
Conservative Treatment – includes life-style changes such as weight loss, exercise, elevation and use of compression stockings. Compression stockings help in the treatment of varicose veins by squeezing the blood back out of your legs to prevent congestion. These stockings require a physician prescription. To help relieve the discomfort from varicose veins, these stockings must be worn during the day until you are able to elevate your legs at night.
Sclerotherapy – a very successful and the most popular method for eliminating spider veins. In this procedure, a tiny needle is used to inject a medication directly into the vein. Learn More About Sclerotherapy
Laser Vein Treatment or Laser Ablation – very successful in treating varicose veins caused by reflux in the saphenous vein. The procedure is performed in the doctor’s office and takes about an hour. Learn More About Laser Vein Treatment
Ambulatory Phlebectomy – often used after laser vein treatment to achieve optimal cosmetic results. In this procedure, the skin is numbed with a local anesthetic and the varicose vein is removed through a very small incision. The incision is then closed with a tape strip. In most cases, the individual may resume their normal activities the following day.
The first step toward treating varicose veins requires visiting a qualified vein specialist such as those at The Heart House. You may also wish to consider visiting us for one of our free vein screening events. Sign up here