More than 35% of people in the United States suffer from varicose veins, and of that group, it is women who are typically affected the most by this condition, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins appear as thick, ropey, knotted structures under the skin which can become swollen and painful. While they can pop up anywhere on the body, they most often develop on the legs and thighs.
Possessing an abnormal structure that causes them to function improperly when transporting blood, varicose veins can lead to blood pooling and a swollen, bulging appearance.
Many of our patients at VeinSolutions in Austin and Georgetown ask, ‘are varicose veins dangerous’?
The answer is typically no and that they do not indicate any serious medical issues. Though they can be unattractive and uncomfortable, and because they contribute to inefficient blood circulation, there are several forms of vein treatments available to minimize or remove varicose veins altogether.
What causes Varicose Veins?
Normal veins operate with tiny valves that help pump blood through the body back up towards the heart. In someone with poorly functioning veins and valves, the blood flow can actually be reversed and flow downward through the lower body to the legs.
This increased pressure put on the superficial veins by the backflow of blood builds up over time and causes varicosities, or varicose veins.
Several risk factors that put pressure on the body and may potentially lead to the development of varicose veins include:
- Frequent, prolonged standing
- Family history of varicose veins or other vein disorders
- Prior surgery or any trauma to the leg
- Pregnancy – due to the increased blood volume associated with pregnancy, varicosities can occur. Additionally, added pressure on the veins in the legs from the weight of the growing uterus and the relaxation effects of estrogen and progesterone on the vein walls contribute to the development of varicose veins.
What are symptoms of Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins usually develop gradually over time with their bulging, knotty appearance being one of the first indications that you have them. They are also often dark blue, purple, or red in hue showing up brightly under the skin and may be hard or sensitive to the touch.
In addition to the cosmetic concern that varicose veins present, approximately 50% of those with the condition also experience:
- Feelings of leg fatigue, aches, burning and pains, especially after prolonged standing
- Night cramps
- Leg and ankle swelling
- Increase in symptoms during the menstrual cycle
Tips to help alleviate symptoms and prevent varicose veins from forming include:
- Elevate your legs when possible keeping your feet positioned higher than your heart.
- Maintain an ideal body weight.
- Engage in regular exercises with simple activities like walking, stair climbing, swimming and cycling to activate your calf muscles.
- Move your legs as frequently as possible to imitate the walking motion and flex your ankles to pump blood and improve circulation.
- Avoid extended periods of sitting or standing.
- Wear support or compression stockings to prevent swelling and blood from pooling downward in the legs.
How are Varicose Veins treated?
There are several treatment options that VeinSolutions offers for varicose vein removal.
These treatments are intended to both help ease the symptoms of varicose veins as well as improve the look and feel aesthetically of the affected areas.
Sclerotherapy is an injection treatment used to remove spider veins and small- to medium-sized varicose veins. These abnormal veins are injected with a solution that is irritating to the vein wall causing it to break down and eventually become absorbed by the body and then eliminated. Sclerotherapy is performed simply in-office by our board-certified physicians and allows you to return to normal activities (excluding heavy lifting and exercise) in about three days after the procedure. In some cases, multiple treatments may be necessary to break down the varicose veins.
Endovenous ablation is another non-surgical, minimally-invasive treatment option for varicose veins. It is also performed in-office with little to-no downtime after the procedure. The ablation is done by inserting a small catheter into the problem vein followed by a thin fiber that emits radio-frequency energy, or heat, to the vein wall. The targeted heat shrinks the vein wall and seals it closed rerouting the blood upwards to other healthy veins. Endovenous ablation has excellent long-term results and typically requires only one treatment.
Minimally invasive varicose vein surgery is often the best choice for larger veins when other treatments have proven unsuccessful. The goal in varicose vein removal surgery is to achieve the best cosmetic results with minimal scarring and to relieve symptoms of pain or swelling that often occur. Today, with the combination of the technology of venous duplex imaging and the meticulous surgical techniques of our highly-trained vascular surgeons, patients are able to attain both optimal cosmetic and therapeutic results. Surgery is typically performed in our office procedure room on an outpatient basis with an average recovery time of one to two weeks.
At VeinSolutions in Austin and Georgetown, we want to help you regain the look and feel of the legs you love!