Varicose veins appear as enlarged, rope-like veins that are typically recognizable as blue, red or even flesh colored. Varicose veins are most often a sign of underlying venous disease. Specifically, venous insufficiency is a malfunction of the valves which regulate the return flow of blood from the legs to the heart. This valve malfunction causes blood to back up and pool in the surface veins, which often lie very close to the surface of the skin. The increased pressure results in the bulging that can be seen above the skin. It is often thought that varicose veins are just a cosmetic issue and that they are synonymous with spider veins. However, if left untreated, varicose veins can lead to serious medical issues including phlebitis (vein inflammation), thrombosis, blood clots and even skin ulcers.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins include:
- Pain or cramping
- Restless leg
- Swelling and throbbing
- Tingling and itching
- Muscle cramps
Patients with varicose veins often complain that these symptoms interfere with their daily life, causing difficulty standing for long periods of time, difficulty with exercise, or even sitting for long periods of time. While much of this results from the hereditary condition of venous disease, it is often triggered or worsened with life events such as:
Pregnancy – Which causes greater stress to the vein walls with a combination of hormonal changes and weight gain.
Leg Injury – Which can damage the superficial veins and blood vessels just under the surface of the skin.
Excessive Weight Gain – Creates excessive pressure inside the veins, and the body must work harder to circulate blood.
Age – As we age, our vein walls lose elasticity and the body has to work harder to pump the blood through them.
Prolonged Standing – Gravity is the worst enemy of your veins! Long periods of standing cause an increase in pressure of the blood in the lower limbs.
What occupations increase the risk of developing varicose veins?
- Medical professionals such as nurses and technologists
- Restaurant and retail professionals such as bartenders and cashiers
- Hair stylists
- Warehouse workers
- Construction workers
Although roughly 40% of Americans suffer from varicose and spiders veins, they are most common among women because they typically have more of the above mentioned risk factors. Woman also experience the painful symptoms associated with varicose veins sooner than men because they are related to fluctuations in estrogen. Although men may not share as many of the same risk factors, they have similar occupational factors, specifically working conditions that contribute to their varicose veins. Men also tend to experience their venous disease issues with more severity, often having more high pressure, bulging veins and more instances of bursting or bleeding veins and venous ulcers.
The key to effective treatment is accurate and early detection of venous insufficiency. When a patient has venous insufficiency, it requires a correction of the valve malfunction. This is done with a procedure known as Endovenous Ablation that we perform in the office with no down time. However, some smaller varicose and spider veins may not require the valve correction procedure and only require a procedure called Sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy involves a series of injections of a sclerosing solution that allows the vein walls to collapse, close off, and absorb into the body allowing the blood to reroute through healthier veins. As with endovenous ablation, this procedure is done in the office with no down time. Both procedures require the use of compression therapy in the form of a gradient compression stocking, which is specifically sized for you to help the veins to close effectively. Many patients find that the daily use of a compression stocking will also lessen some of their symptoms, such as the tired and achy feeling caused by venous disease.
As always with any medical procedure, it is recommended that you only work with qualified experts! The International Vein Clinic’s physicians are accredited with ICAVL (Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories), which ensures that we provide only the highest level of diagnostic testing and diagnosis for our patients. Our physicians are board certified and members of the American College of Phlebology. Participation in these organizations and accreditations demonstrates the International Vein Clinics’ attention to providing the highest most effective quality of patient care.