Varicose Veins: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
If you have avoided shorts or skirts for the last few years because of the unsightly veins in your legs, you are not alone. More than 25 million Americans suffer from varicose veins, which are gnarled and prominent blue veins that become more common as you get older.
These veins can crop up as your vein walls weaken and, the valves that regulate blood flow, stop working as well as they used to. This causes blood to pool in the veins where pressure builds, causing the veins to become enlarged and twist. Varicose veins aren’t only a cosmetic problem, they sometimes cause pain and other symptoms such as:
- Leg fatigue, heaviness
- Aching, throbbing, itching
- Swelling (legs/ankles/feet)
Left untreated, symptoms may get worse and lead to complications including:
- Skin changes in the lower legs (skin discoloration/thickening)
- Slow healing sores (venous ulcers) on legs, ankles or feet
- Blood clots (DVT)
Risk Factors for Varicose Veins
Up to 40 percent of women and 25 percent of men experience the venous insufficiency that can lead to varicose veins. As people age, varicose veins tend to worsen as veins lose their natural elasticity which can cause blood vessels to enlarge, according to experts at the Brigham and Women’s Vascular and Vein Care Center. People who have a family history of varicose veins have a higher risk of developing them themselves, as do women and those with certain medial conditions such as phlebitis, a history of deep vein thrombosis or past vascular or bypass surgeries. Varicose veins may also be triggered by weight gain, pregnancy or menopause.
Whatever the cause, there are a number of options to deal with them, including minimally invasive and painless treatments options that can rid you of veins without surgery.
There are several treatment options, some covered by insurance, that patients can consider at the Brigham and Women’s Vascular and Vein Care Center, which has offices in Foxborough, Newton Corner and West Bridgewater, including the following:
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT®)
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT), a safe, effective, non-surgical laser procedure to eliminate varicose veins at the source is an option for some patients. This minimally invasive, treatment works quickly, using the laser to close the faulty varicose veins. Once the problem veins are closed, blood re-routes itself through the normal veins that remain, flowing more efficiently.
The treatment takes about 45 minutes and provides immediate relief for those who have pain or other symptoms. Published clinical studies show that EVLTs have more than a 95 percent initial success rate, and good long-term results. One of the main advantages of this treatment is that it allows patients to return to normal activities right away.
If you are not a candidate for EVLT or need supplementary therapies, there are other options including sclerotheray and/or ambulatory phlebectomy.
Sclerotherapy is a non-surgical procedure during which a healthcare professional injects a solution into the problem veins, using a very fine needle, to seal the vein shut. The solution causes the lining of the vein to swell, sealing off the blood vessel and preventing blood flow. Veins may require more than one injection before they disappear. Typically the vein is eliminated anywhere from two weeks to a month after treatment. Because this procedure doesn’t require a surgical incision, most patients only experience minimal discomfort.
Another option for varicose veins is a micro extraction procedure known as ambulatory phlebectomy. This procedure allows the physician to remove large surface varicose veins through tiny skin incision. The incisions are so small-only one millimeter- that there is no need for stitches and the procedure won’t leave a scar. Typically physicians perform this procedure using a local anesthetic.
To choose the right procedure for each patient the board certified physicians at the Vascular and Vein Care Center will perform an initial consultation and other evaluations, including a diagnostic ultrasound.
Varicose veins aren’t the only vein irregularity that doctors can treat. Laser treatments and other vein therapies are also available to address removal of spider or reticular leg veins at the Vascular and Vein Center.
Experts at the Vascular and Vein Care Center also use lasers and other procedures to focus on other cosmetic problems, such as
- Hair reduction
- Skin resurfacing
- Scar removal
- Skin rejuvenation of pigmented blemishes and vascular lesions (rosacea, port wine stains, angiomas)
Taking the time to address vein irregularities or other problems can not only potentially improve your health, but improve your comfort and your appearance.
To learn more about varicose veins, click here.This is a paid partnership between Brigham and Women's Hospital and Boston Magazine