VARICOSE OR SPIDER VEIN PROCEDURES
In normal veins, valves in the vein keep blood moving forward toward the heart. With varicose veins, the valves do not function properly, allowing blood to remain in the vein. Pooling of blood in a vein causes it to enlarge.
Spider veins and varicose veins are practically a rite of passage. As we age, many of us find the jagged purple lines or swollen bluish cords spreading across our thighs and calves. These warped blood vessels occur in up to 60% of adults.
Spider veins are small, twisted blood vessels that are visible through the skin. They may be red, purple, or blue and most often appear on the legs or face. They take their name from their striking spiderweb pattern.
Varicose veins are larger blood vessels that have become swollen and twisted. They appear dark blue and stick out from the skin like raised tunnels. Varicose veins can develop anywhere in the body, but usually sprout on the legs and ankles.
Anyone can get spider veins or varicose veins, but women are twice as susceptible as men. Primary varicose veins occur because of congenitally defective valves, or without a known cause. Secondary varicose veins is more common in people with jobs that keep them on their feet, including nurses and teachers. Other factors that may contribute include aging, obesity, pregnancy, prior trauma, or surgery to the leg and a genetic predisposition.
For some people, spider veins and varicose veins are more than an eyesore. Varicose veins in particular may cause symptoms of aching or cramping in the legs. The affected area may throb, burn, tingle, or feel heavy. Severely inflamed veins can be tender to the touch and may reduce circulation, leading to itchy, swollen ankles. They can also produce chronic skin and tissue changes such as discoloration and ulceration of the skin.
The diagnosis is mainly based on the appearance of the leg veins when you are standing or seated with the legs dangling.
The treatment is usually conservative and the simplest treatment for spider veins and varicose veins is to pull on a pair of support stockings, also called compression stockings. They improve circulation and relieve pain and discomfort in the legs. Losing weight and walking regularly can ease the symptoms of spider veins and varicose veins.
If home remedies don’t yield enough improvement, there are medical procedures to eliminate spider veins and varicose veins. Sclerotherapy wipes out 80% of treated veins. A doctor injects a solution directly into the abnormal vein. The blood vessel is destroyed, becomes fibrotic, and eventually disappears. This procedure requires a high degree of technical skill and special training. A thorough evaluation prior to the treatment is necessary to avoid side effects such as discoloration, or the formation of new, superficial tiny blood vessels. The solution can be highly caustic; inadvertent injection into areas outside the vein can lead to serious side effects in the tissue surrounding the vein. After treatment with sclerotherapy, spider veins generally disappear in three to six weeks, while varicose veins may take three to four months to respond. Once gone, the veins do not reappear. But you will probably develop new spider veins at the same rate as before.
Laser Therapy and Intense Light Pulse (ILP) destroys tiny spider veins and small varicose veins with heat. The heat causes scar tissue to form, which eventually closes off the vein. For some patients, this is an appealing alternative to injections. Side effects may include minor discomfort in the treated area, skin discoloration, and the formation of blisters. Laser therapy works more slowly than sclerotherapy. More than one session is usually needed to get results, and it can take a year or two for the vein to disappear completely.
For varicose veins that are too large to respond to sclerotherapy or laser therapy, surgery is an option.