What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins, also known as varicose or varicosities, occur when your veins become enlarged, dilated, and overfilled with blood. Varicose veins typically appear swollen and raised, and have a bluish-purple or red color. They often cause cramps, leg discomfort, or pain.
The condition is very common, especially in women. Around 25 – 30 percent of all adults have varicose veins. In most cases, varicose veins appear on the lower legs.
Causes of varicose veins
Varicose veins occur when veins aren’t functioning properly. Veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. When these valves fail, blood begins to collect in the veins rather than continuing toward your heart. The veins then enlarge. Varicose veins often affect the legs. The veins there are the farthest from your heart, and gravity makes it harder for the blood to flow upward.
Some potential causes for varicose veins include:
- Age over 40
- Standing for long periods
- Family history of varicose veins
Symptoms of varicose veins
The primary symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Heaviness in the legs
- Leg cramps
- Restless Legs
- Achiness over or around the enlarged veins.
Diagnosing Varicose Veins
Our vascular doctors will likely examine your legs and visible veins while you’re sitting or standing to diagnose varicose veins. They may ask you about any pain or symptoms you’re having.
Our doctors may also want to do an ultrasound to check your blood flow. This is a non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves. It allows us to see how blood is flowing in your veins.
Depending on the location, a venogram may be done to further assess your veins. During this test, our doctors inject a special dye into your legs and take X-rays of the area. The dye appears on the X-rays, giving our doctors a better view of how your blood is flowing.
Tests such as ultrasounds or venograms help ensure that another disorder like a blood clot or a blockage isn’t causing the pain and swelling in your legs.
Treating and Preventing Varicose Veins
In general, our doctors are conservative when treating varicose veins. You’ll probably be advised to make changes to your lifestyle, instead of trying more aggressive treatments.
VNUS Closure Procedure
VNUS® RF (radiofrequency) Ablation system (also called the Closure® procedure) is a minimally invasive varicose vein treatment procedure that uses radiofrequency energy (electricity) to heat, collapse and seal off the targeted blood vessels.
After using ultrasound to map the course of the vein to be treated, our physicians guide a catheter (thin tube) through a small incision into the diseased vein, threading it through the blood vessel into the groin area. Electricity is delivered to a heating element in 20-second pulses, heating and contracting the collagen within the walls of the vein until they shrink and shut down. This process is called ablation. The vein is treated in segments as the catheter is gradually inched back down towards the incision. When the entire vein has been ablated, the blood flow is automatically rerouted through healthier adjacent veins, restoring healthy circulation and reducing swelling. The ablated vein becomes scar tissue and is absorbed by the body.
Sclerotherapy ( Foam and Varithena)
Sclerotherapy effectively treats varicose and spider veins. It’s often considered the treatment of choice for small varicose veins.
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution directly into the vein. The sclerotherapy solution causes the vein to scar, forcing blood to reroute through healthier veins. The collapsed vein is reabsorbed into local tissue and eventually fades.
After sclerotherapy, treated veins tend to fade within a few weeks, although occasionally it may take a month or more to see the full results. In some instances, several sclerotherapy treatments may be needed.