What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins, sometimes referred to as venous varicoses or varicosities, are enlarged veins which have become weak, dilated and filled with blood. Often these veins are twisted, enlarged, and bulging and can have a bluish, purple or red color and have more than 4 mm diameter. Vein enlargement is caused by leaking valves know as venous reflux disease.
Occasionally these veins are inside the leg and cannot be seen on the surface. Since these varicose veins are often not visible, many patients and sometimes primary care providers may not even consider your symptoms to be related to varicose veins and venous insufficiency.
According to recent studies varicose veins affect over one-half of the people age 50 and older in the United States, as well as affecting a significantly high percentage of Americans in their 30s and 40s, making it the most common human vascular disease. Although sometimes referred to as a cosmetic concern, more often these veins are a sign of a larger venous complication like Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI).
CVI is a progressive disease. Varicosities can lead to more pain and swelling, and occasionally surface blood clots, ulcers, and bleeding. They rarely lead to serious or deadly medical complications. You should consider vein treatment if you are having leg pain or you just can't stand how they look... this is truly a personal decision.
Varicose Veins Symptoms:
Although the easily recognizable varicose vein symptoms are visual such as bulging veins in leg, several varicose vein pain symptoms are often present as well. Patients with venous failure often complain of:
- Aching legs
- Heavy legs
- Burning, throbbing, or swelling legs
- Sometimes swelling in the ankles can be seen in the feet with bulging veins.
- Muscle cramps
- Leg fatigue
- Bleeding veins
- Itching veins
- Restless legs
- Leg pain after sitting or standing long periods
- Skin ulcers or inflammation
What Cause Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins causes are pretty straightforward; normal veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing in reverse as your body pumps blood back to the heart. When these valves cease to function properly, blood is allowed to collect, or pool, instead of returning to the heart. The majority of varicose veins occur in the legs as they are farthest from the heart and gravity makes it even more difficult for blood to travel upward. Chronic venous disease is a progressive degenerative problem.
The following are found to be the most common varicose vein causes:
- Age - As we get older, veins can become weak as they stretch due to loss of elasticity. This is a progressive disease, varicose veins usually progress over time, that can lead to more leg pain and swelling.
- Pregnancy - In order to support a growing fetus, the volume of blood in the body increases, and with hormonal shift, the veins in the extremities become weak.
- Family History - There’s a much greater chance of having varicose veins if family members have or had them.
- Standing or Sitting for long periods - Blood does not flow well without body activity.
Varicose Veins Prevention
There are certainly things you can do on your own to try and prevent the varicose veins you have from getting worse. Unfortunately you can't prevent varicose veins from forming, especially if you have a family history of venous insufficiency or vein disease.
- Do not sit or stand for long periods of time.
- Elevate your legs whenever possible or convenient. Raise your legs above your heart when possible.
- Eat a high-fiber, low-salt diet.
- Low-impact exercise such as walking, cycling, or dancing.
- Avoid high heels and hosiery with tight bands.
- Wear medical grade compression stockings.
Varicose Veins Treatment
There are several modern in-office procedures for varicose vein treatment that cause minimal pain (if any) and very little downtime. At Advanced Vein Institute of Arizona we don’t use outmoded vein surgery methods such as phlebectomy or vein stripping, as these are painful procedures with slow healing times. We have perfected endovenous (inside the vein) techniques to successfully treat the great saphenous veins and small saphenous veins. Pain relief for varicose veins is available for everyone. In fact, most of the time Jilanne is able to treat accessory veins that other vein doctors often thought untreatable using with endovenous approaches. Patients and referring physicians alike are amazed at Jilanne's technical expertise as she treats veins that other vein doctors have recommended phlebectomy, microphlebectomy, or stripping.
The methods we employ for varicose vein pain treatment:
- Medical Adhesive (Veneseal Closure System) - This is “State of the Art” technology and causes very little pain (if any) and resumption of all activity the same day as treatment. This FDA approved procedure will be covered by Medicare January, 2018 and hopefully other insurances soon after that.
- Laser Treatment (Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) - This treatment uses laser energy to ablate (destroy) the vein. This is a minimally invasive procedure and is covered by most insurances.
- Radio Frequency Ablation (ClosureFast Radiofrequency Procedure) - This updated procedure uses radiofrequency instead of laser to ablate the vein. This is normally covered by insurance.
- ClariVein® Varicose Vein Treatment - This procedure is a minimally invasive method which uses a mechanochemical device to close diseased superficial veins. This is covered by most health insurance plans.
- Liquid Sclerotherapy and Compression (chemical injection) - Sclerotherapy can be used to treat smaller veins. This can be a time and cost effective procedure but sometimes requires multiple sessions for complete success.
Will Varicose Veins Return After Treatment?
No, they should not. If varicose veins are closed correctly, there is less than 1% chance that those specific treatments (i.e. treated veins) will fail over time. However, there is always a possibility that additional veins will become abnormal as time progresses. Venous disease is a chronic progressive disease process. The time frame varies from person to person, and is predicated upon family history and contribution of other risk factors. It's important to seek treatment if you are symptomatic with leg pain, leg fullness, and non-specific heaviness in the legs, especially after standing for long periods of time. Finally, if you have a history of chronic venous insufficiency, consider evaluation annual or every few years regardless of symptoms in order to keep your venous insufficiency under control.
Next Steps for Vein Evaluation
At Advanced Vein Institute of Arizona, we believe that every patient is unique, and every varicose vein treatment should be specifically tailored for each patient. A full exam and Duplex Ultrasound will enable us to properly diagnose and recommend treatment based on your specific needs.