Varicose veins are a relatively common medical condition where blood pools in small surface veins. This causes your vein to appear like a blue, green, or purplish rope on the surface of your skin. Luckily, there are ways to treat the condition, such as those performed at R Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, California. Keep reading to learn more about available varicose vein treatment options and whether or not you are a good candidate for one.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are sections of surface-level veins that appear bunched, bulging, or like cords because they are filled with blood. They are often colored blue or purple, and many people find them embarrassing or unsightly. The most common place where varicose veins appear is the legs. Hemorrhoids are varicose veins around or in the rectum.
Because they can lead to inflammation in the surrounding area, varicose veins can also be painful. They may lead to your legs feeling heavy or achy. You may also experience red, itchy, and scaly skin surrounding the affected area. For some people, varicose veins can lead to ulcers around the feet and ankle, which often have difficulty healing. If you experience pain or discomfort, either with or without pressure on them, you may want to see a specialist in order to discuss varicose vein treatments that could help you.
When you have smaller, web-like veins visible on your skin, they are called spider veins. These rarely lead to pain or discomfort and are not generally considered dangerous. Many people prefer to have spider veins treated, largely for cosmetic reasons. However, spider veins can be an indicator that you may develop larger varicose veins in the future, so keep an eye on them even if you decide against seeking out treatment for them.
What Causes Them?
There can be several factors involved in the cause of your varicose veins. One is thinned vein walls. Because your veins are designed to carry blood back to the heart to be re-oxygenated, they are not designed to withstand large amounts of pressure. They have relatively thin walls, especially when compared to your arteries. Sometimes, those thinner areas stretch under the normal flow of blood, causing the appearance of varicose veins.
More commonly, varicose veins occur when a valve fails to stop blood from flowing backward in your vein. Veins are generally designed to allow blood flow in one direction: back to your heart. They have valves throughout their lengths designed to allow blood to go that direction, but not the other. If those valves are weak or fail, then blood may be able to flow backward slightly when your heart is not actively pumping.
That backward flow creates pools of stagnant blood that can appear as spider or varicose veins. It can also contribute to increased pressure, resulting in bulging or distorted vein walls and the appearance of varicose veins. Consistently high blood pressure may be linked to increased risk of varicose veins and other venous disorders for the same reason.
What Varicose Vein Treatment Options Are Available?
There are many treatments for varicose and spider veins that you can take advantage of today. Some are simply preventative methods or designed to temporarily relieve symptoms, while others permanently remove the affected vein. Some of the most common treatment options available include Sclerotherapy and radiofrequency ablation.
There are some lifestyle changes that may help ease symptoms of venous disorders. Keeping your feet elevated so that blood doesn’t pool is one. Adding exercise can help boost circulation and potentially decrease the pressure your veins are under. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help alleviate some of the pressure on your legs as well.
Compression stockings are specialized socks that apply pressure to your legs, ankles, and feet. They can help reduce the swelling and discomfort of varicose veins. They may also help minimize the appearance of varicose and spider veins.
Compression stockings work by encouraging circulation in the covered area. Anyone can buy and wear these specialized socks which, due to their growing popularity, can now be found in fun colors and designs. Unfortunately, having to wear compression socks year-round can seriously limit your summer clothing choices.
This is a noninvasive treatment that is suitable for smaller spider veins. It can be safely used on almost any skin type. VeinGogh uses specially designed radiofrequency bursts to destroy affected veins quickly. Treatments take place in the office, and results are usually achieved after a single treatment session. VeinGogh is only for use on small spider veins and is not a good treatment option for larger varicose veins.
This has long been considered the gold standard among treatments for varicose veins. It is considered incredibly safe and is minimally invasive. Doctors have been performing some version of sclerotherapy since the 1930s, so there is a long history of research and use behind the procedure.
A sclerotherapy treatment involves your doctor injecting a solution into your vein to cause irritation. This solution is often a type of saline, but it can also be other approved chemicals. Once the inside of your vein is irritated, it reacts by swelling. That inflammation causes the vein to become blocked, which leads your body to divert blood flow to other nearby, healthy veins.
Once there is no blood flow in the affected vein, it essentially dies and turns into scar tissue. Your body dissolves and absorbs that varicose vein. Sclerotherapy is a good treatment choice for people with small to medium-sized varicose veins. Treatments generally take between 30 and 45 minutes and can usually be done right in your doctor’s office. There is little to no downtime or specialized care routine after treatment, and final results should be noticeable after a couple of weeks.
If you have larger varicose veins, you may be a good candidate for Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) treatments to remove them. This technology is also used on damaged or inflamed nerves to treat pain. As with VeinGogh treatments, RFA uses heat to destroy vein tissue. It is considered a minimally invasive treatment, yet it is slightly more involved than surface lasers or VeinGogh treatments.
During an RFA session, your doctor will use an ultrasound or another imaging device to locate the affected vein. A catheter will then be inserted into your vein and the doctor will thread it toward the site of damage. The heat from radiofrequency waves will be delivered to your vein through the catheter as it is slowly and carefully eased through.
The heat that is applied causes your diseased vein to collapse and die, after which they will be absorbed into the surrounding tissue. Much like what happens after sclerotherapy, your blood flow will be diverted to other healthy veins near the old one.
How Long Does It Take?
RFA sessions generally last 45 minutes to one hour each. You should also plan on scheduling time for preparation before and getting follow up instructions afterward. These treatments only require a local anesthetic to help you stay comfortable and can be safely performed in a vascular treatment center or clinic.
In general, you should expect the need for compression of the insertion site for at least several days following your procedure. You will likely also be instructed to keep the treated leg elevated to reduce the chance of bruising. Although walking may be encouraged in the days after your treatment, heavy exercise should be avoided for at least a few days.
In cases where varicose veins are overly enlarged or unresponsive to other treatments, there are surgical options. These generally involve removal of the affected section of vein through a very small incision. This is a treatment that should only be performed by an experienced and qualified physician.
Do They Come Back?
Noninvasive treatments like compression stockings and elevating your feet will only reduce the symptoms of varicose veins. That means they are likely to return once you stop the treatments. If you find that these at-home treatments work for you, but you don’t want to be burdened with constantly keeping your feet up or always having to wear socks, you may want to look into a specialized treatment at a vascular center like R Shaheen Vascular.
Once veins are treated with Sclerotherapy, lasers, or radiofrequency waves, they are gone forever. However, you may develop new varicose veins in other areas.
How Can You Reduce Your Chances of Getting Varicose Veins?
If you have a family history of the condition, or if you have been diagnosed with other vascular disorders, you may be more likely to develop varicose veins. However, developing varicose veins is never a given no matter how many people in your family had them, and there are steps you can take to reduce your chances.
One of the easiest things you can do is to avoid standing in one place for long periods of time. That is because varicose veins develop when blood pools in your legs, and standing still encourages that behavior.
Standing while in motion or during exercise is different because it encourages improved circulation. In fact, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight is another step you can take to reduce your chances of developing varicose veins. Not only that, but it also promotes a healthy heart and circulatory system.
Try to keep your legs elevated when you are seated, especially if you notice swelling in your feet or ankles. You can also try wearing compression socks to help improve circulation in your legs. If you notice swelling all of a sudden, you should consult a medical professional to make sure there is no serious underlying cause.
Are You a Good Candidate for Varicose Vein Treatment?
Now that you understand more about varicose veins, their causes, and some treatment options, you can start to explore if having varicose vein treatment is the right option for you. Although everyone is unique, and you should always consider your lifestyle and health conditions individually, here are some signs you may be a good candidate for varicose vein treatment:
- You have pain or discomfort caused by your varicose veins
- Home remedies haven’t worked or are too time-consuming to continue
- You want to be able to wear shorts or a swimsuit without worrying about covering your bulging veins
- You are not currently pregnant or nursing a child
- You are between 30 and 60 years of age
Take the First Steps Today
If that sounds like you, then it may be time to consider learning what varicose vein treatment options are open to you. Contact the specially trained staff at R Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, California to schedule a personal consultation today. At your appointment, they can review your current condition and take a complete medical history to determine the best varicose vein treatment options for you.