Varicose veins are unsightly, sometimes uncomfortable and very common. Sometimes a varicose vein can even cause other health problems, such as leg ulcers. Fortunately, advances in vein treatment can improve vein health, make varicose veins disappear, and reduce the risk of complications like leg ulcers.
About Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are one of the most common types of vein problems. In fact, up to 35 percent of people in the United States have varicose veins, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery.
The appearance of a varicose vein is a sign of vein disease. Along with arteries, veins are part of the circulatory system. Arteries deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body, where cells use the oxygen and nutrients to function. As they work, the cells create carbon dioxide and other byproducts and deposit the byproducts in the blood for transport and elimination from the body. Veins carry this blood from the far reaches of the body back to the heart.
Gravity helps blood flow downward through the arteries to the feet, but gravity fights against veins trying to carry the blood upwards to the heart. Tiny valves inside veins open and close with every beat of the heart, which traps blood in small segments within the vein so it does not flow back into the feet.
Faulty valves and other vein problems can cause blood to seep backward and accumulate in the veins of the lower legs. The excess blood in the veins causes the blood vessels to expand, bloat and twist into a varicose vein. Varicose veins lying close to the surface are visible to the naked eye; varicose veins can develop deep within the body. Varicose veins can develop anywhere in the body, but they most commonly occur in the lower legs.
Varicose veins can cause unsightly cosmetic problems, but they can also cause aching, heaviness of the legs, itching and sometimes even pain. The blood accumulation from these diseased veins can also cause breakdown of the skin around the ankles and result in painful sores, known as venous ulcers or stasis ulcers.
Varicose Vein Risk Factors
Certain factors can increase the likelihood that someone will develop varicose veins. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than are men, for example, and women who have had multiple children also have a higher risk of developing this vein disease than do women who have not. Obesity is also a risk factor for developing at least one varicose vein in life.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Varicose Veins
A vein doctor can diagnose and treat varicose veins. The vascular surgeon will ask the patient about symptoms, personal medical history, and family medical history. The doctor will also perform a gentle examination of the legs while the patient is standing. In many cases, the vein surgeon will request a painless ultrasound test capable of identifying and pinpointing diseased veins.
Vein doctors will often recommend patients with varicose veins wear compression stockings, which are tight-fitting hosiery that prevents blood from pooling by squeezing the lower legs. Compression stockings can alleviate the aching and swelling associated with varicose veins.
Medical treatment of varicose veins often involves irritating the interior wall of the diseased vein, which response to the irritation by swelling up and closing completely. Blood stops flowing through the treated vein and, instead, flows through other veins instead. In time, the treated veins break apart. Nearby tissue absorbs the remnants of the treated vein, causing the varicose vein to fade slowly from view.
Vein doctors can choose from a variety of varicose vein treatments, depending on the severity of the varicose veins and the patient’s individual needs. Varicose vein treatment options include endovenous laser treatment (EVLA) that uses the power of light energy to irritate the diseased vein and lead to its closure.
For more information about varicose veins, their risk factors and symptoms, and treatment of varicose veins, consult with a vein doctor. The primary vein doctor at Vein911, Dr. Chris Pittman, has the extensive training and experience to diagnose and treat varicose veins.