What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that often look twisted. While any vein can become varicose, they are most prevalent in your feet and legs because of the pressure on your lower body that results from standing and walking.

Who Gets Varicose Veins (Prevalence)?

Varicose veins can occur in both men and women at any age. However, they are more common among women specifically of childbearing age, and the elderly.

What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?

For some people, varicose veins are only a cosmetic concern. For others, they can cause pain described as an ache or constant discomfort. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Large veins that are visible beneath the skin's surface
  • Painful, achy legs that feel heavy
  • Mild swelling in the feet and ankles
  • Leg cramping or throbbing
  • Itchy legs
  • Discoloration of the skin near the varicose vein
 

If not controlled properly, varicose veins can result in a condition called superficial thrombophlebitis, which is a blood clot in the vein close to the surface of the skin.

How Are Varicose Veins Diagnosed?

Varicose veins are diagnosed through a physical exam by your doctor. They will examine your legs while you are sitting or standing with your legs dangling and also ask about any symptoms you may have.

After the physical examination they may order a Duplex Ultrasound to check the blood flow in your veins and make sure there are no blood clots. In rare instances they may also suggest an Angiogram to see a more thorough view of the blood through the veins.

Varicose Vein Treatment Options

Endovascular Laser Ablation and Endovenous Radiofrequency Ablation

Both endovascular laser ablation and endovenous radiofrequency ablation are minimally invasive treatments. In endovascular laser ablation, an optical fiber is inserted into a varicose vein. The fiber shines a laser light into the interior of the vein, which causes the vein to contract. In endovenous radiofrequency ablation, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a refluxing or backwards-flowing vein to seal it shut using radiofrequency. In both treatments, blood is then re-routed into normal, healthy veins alleviating reflux symptoms. Over time the treated vein shrinks and is absorbed by the body. Compared with surgical options like ligation and vein stripping, these treatments are less invasive and result in less pain and quicker recovery time.

Sclerotherapy

In sclerotherapy, a tiny needle is used to inject the veins with a medication that irritates the lining of the vein. Over a short time, the vein closes in response to the irritation and is reabsorbed. The blood from the closed vein is routed to properly working veins, restoring correct circulation and improving overall appearance.

Microphlebectomy

Microphlebectomy is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to treat varicose veins that are not caused by saphenous vein reflux. A local anesthetic is injected over your bulging veins and very small skin nicks are made over the veins. Using special instruments, the unsightly veins are gently removed. No stitches are necessary and there is minimal downtime from your normal activities. The results have been very positive for both male and female patients.

Compression Therapy for Varicose Veins

Venous insufficiency, which can lead to the development of varicose veins, can also cause edema (swelling). Edema is caused by a back-up of blood and increased pressure in the veins, a problem that is localized to the legs, ankles, and feet; one leg may be more affected than the other (asymmetrical edema). Compression therapy provides a means to treat venous stasis, venous hypertension, and venous edema. Objectives of compression therapy are to reduce the swollen limb to minimum size, maintain that size, and allow the patient to participate in the care of his or her limb whenever possible. Treatments can include exercise, wrapping, massage, compression stockings, and a compression pump. Graduated compression therapy gives support to the legs and helps improve circulation back to the heart. Though this treatment may provide symptomatic relief to your leg pain, it does not prevent or cure varicose veins.

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