As the weather gets warmer, you may be considering clothing options like shorts and skirts but, if you have varicose or spider veins on your legs, you may be hesitant to show them. However, the right vein treatment can let you feel good about showing your legs this summer.
Unfortunately, varicose veins and spider veins don’t just happen to older people. Varicose veins can affect anyone of any age, male or female. Unsightly veins are not something that you should put up with, especially because they can be more than a cosmetic annoyance. Varicose veins can be an indication of deeper vein problems, like venous reflux disease and deep vein thrombosis. Problem veins left untreated can lead to other health issues like leg ulcers and even dangerous blood clots.
Causes of Varicose and Spider Veins
Poor blood flow is the underlying cause of both varicose veins and spider veins. When varicose or spider veins appear just under the surface of your skin, this is typically a sign that your veins are not pushing the blood through your body as efficiently as possible. For some people, blood flow gets sluggish and, instead of flowing efficiently to and from your heart, the blood can back up in your legs and feet. This backed-up flow causes the veins to swell up and become more visible. You can also experience other symptoms of poor circulation in your legs, such as leg fatigue, cramping or heaviness.
Poor blood flow can be caused by:
- sitting or standing still for long periods
- genetic weaknesses in the veins
- injury or damage to the veins
When Vein Problems Are Serious
When blood flow is sluggish and blood continues to pool in the veins, fluid from the veins can leak out into the surrounding tissue, causing bruises or small ulcers on the surface of the skin. These types of ulcers can be difficult to heal, and sometimes require intensive wound treatment.
If you have deeper vein issues, the blood can also clot in your vein. If this happens in a surface vein it can be uncomfortable and painful, but is not necessarily dangerous. However, if a clot occurs in one of your deeper veins, that clot has the potential to travel to your lungs or brain, which can be dangerous. This is why you should see a vein specialist for an evaluation as soon as you notice varicose veins and/or experience any heaviness, throbbing or discomfort in your legs. A vein specialist will typically conduct a non-invasive vein scan with ultrasound to help determine if the problem involves surface veins or deep veins, and if you need immediate treatment.
Vein Treatment Options
Previously, vein surgery was the primary type of treatment available for people suffering from varicose veins. Surgical procedures are still available as treatments for certain cases, but many patients can now be effectively treated with less-invasive treatment options like sclerotherapy, phlebectomy, and laser therapy called Endovenous Thermal Ablation (EVTA). These treatments treat the veins from the inside and also improve the outward appearance of your legs.
Two popular vein treatment options include:
During a sclerotherapy treatment, the doctor injects a solution called a sclerosant into the problem vein. The injected solution causes the vein to shrink and harden so that blood can no longer flow through it—blood will be re-routed to flow through other, healthier veins. The sclerotherapy procedure also makes the vein disappear from the surface of the skin without scarring—making your legs more presentable.
Laser fibers are used in procedures like EVTA, whereby the doctor will apply a local anesthetic, and then make tiny incisions through which the laser fiber is inserted into the vein. The tiny laser fiber is heated and then withdrawn. As with sclerotherapy, the laser seals or closes off the vein so that blood will no longer flow through it. The blood will flow more effectively through other veins in the area, which stops the blood from pooling in your legs and relieves symptoms. The appearance of your legs will also improve.
Choosing the Best Vein Treatment for You
Sclerotherapy usually works best on smaller veins, while a laser treatment like EVTA can work best on larger veins. If you have several varicose veins, accompanied by spider veins, your doctor might use both methods: the laser to treat the larger varicose veins and the sclerotherapy to treat the smaller varicose veins and spider veins.
These procedures have a 98 percent success rate, and are quick and relatively painless. Most patients can return to normal activities (including exercise) the same day as treatment.