Varicose veins are a very common condition and affect approximately 15% of men and approximately 25% of women.
Varicose veins are the blue or purplish enlarged veins you typically see bulging out of one's leg. The word "varicose" is derived from the Latin root word "varix," which is translated in English as "twisted."
For many men and women, varicose veins and spider veins (these are the smaller and more common variation of varicose veins) makes them feel less attractive. However, it's important to note that for others, varicose veins cause aching pain and discomfort, for these people, vein extraction may be necessary. Varicose veins may lead to serious problems if not treated, and also serve as an indication that you are at a higher risk of other disorders of the circulatory system.
Any vein in your body may become varicose, however, its important to note that this condition or varicose veins exists most often in the legs and feet. Varicose veins occur in the legs and lower extremities because standing and walking increases the pressure in the veins in the lower half of your body.
As with many other health related issues, self-help measures work well for prevention; compression stockings and changing certain aspects in one's lifestyle.
One of the tools available to vein specialists for treating both spider veins and larger varicose veins is the laser, which uses an intensely focused beam of light to heat up and get rid of problematic veins.
For various reasons, some people aren't able to undergo sclerotherapy (an injection treatment) for spider veins or varicose veins. If this is the case for you, laser therapy may be the best option for treating your vein problems.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
A number of people do not experience any discomfort with varicose veins, however, certain people do. For those that do experience discomfort, below are some of the symptoms
Achiness or heavy feeling in one's legs; burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in the lower legs.
Itching around one or more of your veins in the legs.
Skin ulcers near your ankle, which represent a severe form of vascular disease and require immediate attention.
If you have varicose veins, typically prolonged sitting or standing tends to make your legs feel worse. The varicose veins are easy to spot because they are dark purple or blue in color and sometimes appear twisted and bulging. The most common spot they appear is on the inside of the leg or on the backs of calves. But don’t let that fool you, they can form anywhere on your legs, from your groin to your ankle.
Risk Factors that Increase your Chances of Developing Varicose Veins
Standing for long periods of time. Blood doesn't flow as well if you're in the same position for long periods of time because your muscles are not contracting to push the blood back to the heart.
Obesity. Extra weight puts more pressure on your veins.
Age. The normal processing of aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins which regulate blood flow. The wear and tear may causes the valves to malfunction.
Sex. Women have a higher chance than men are to develop varicose veins and spider veins. This is attributed to hormonal changes during pregnancy, and also premenstruation or menopause may be a factor. Some researchers have found that female hormones may relax vein walls. Moreover, the use of hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may increase the risk of varicose veins.
Genetics. Check to see whether your family members have varicose veins, heredity plays a big role.
Can Varicose Veins be Prevented?
There's no way to completely prevent varicose veins. But improving your circulation and muscle tone can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. Traditional, common-sense approaches include:
Exercise. Get your legs moving. Walking is a great way to encourage blood circulation in your legs. Your doctor can recommend an appropriate activity level for you.
Watch your weight, and your diet. Shedding excess pounds takes unnecessary pressure off your veins. What you eat makes a difference, too. Follow a low-salt, high-fiber diet to prevent the swelling that may result from water retention and constipation.
Watch what you wear. Avoid high heels. Low-heeled shoes work calf muscles more, which is better for your veins. Don't wear tight clothes around your waist, legs or groin. Tight panty-leg girdles, for instance, can restrict circulation.
Elevate your legs. To improve venous circulation, take several short breaks daily to elevate your legs above the level of your heart. For example, lie down with your legs resting on three or four pillows.
Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Make a point of changing your position frequently to encourage blood flow. Try to move around at least every 30 minutes.
Don't sit with your legs crossed. This position can aggravate circulation problems.
Pregnancy and Varicose Veins
Pregnant women sometimes complain of developing varicose veins. This is true. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in a woman’s body, however, it decreases the flow of blood from the legs to the pelvis. This change in circulation is designed to support the growing baby, but it can produce an unfortunate side effects such as enlarged veins in the legs. Varicose veins may appear for the first time during pregnancy. It has been observed that the varicose veins may worsen during late pregnancy because the uterus exerts greater pressure on the veins in your legs.
Hemorrhoids and Varicose Veins?
Some are very surprised to learn that hemorrhoids are actually varicose veins located in and around the anus. Moreover, this condition is very common in the United States. By age 50, about half of adults have had to deal with the itching, bleeding and pain that often signal the presence of hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids, also known as “piles”, are swollen veins in your anus and rectum. The causes include straining during a bowel movement or the increased pressure during pregnancy.
Effective medications and procedures are readily available to treat hemorrhoids. Fortunately, in many cases hemorrhoids may require only lifestyle changes.
Painful ulcers may form on the skin near varicose veins, particularly near the ankles. Increased pressure of blood within the affected veins can cause "water logging" which is a cause of the ulcers. Sometimes there is a brownish pigmentation prior to developing the ulcer. It is important to see a physician immediately if you suspect you've developed an ulcer
Sudden Swelling of the Leg
If you have considerable swelling in the leg (caused by the enlarging of veins deep within the legs) you must see a doctor immediately. Any sudden leg swelling requires urgent medical attention because it may indicate a blood clot — a condition known medically as thrombophlebitis.
Varicose Vein Treatment Options
Vein removal today usually doesn't mean a hospital stay or a time consuming, uncomfortable recovery. Less invasive techniques are available that can be done fairly quickly.
The use of compression stockings may prove effective for your condition. Learn more about compression stockings
Prior to getting treatment for your varicose veins, you should ask a physician about the affects of: compression stockings, exercising, losing weight, not wearing tight clothes, elevating your legs, avoiding long periods of standing or sitting. These are helpful in prevention and slowing the progression of the condition.
If you are pregnant and have varicose veins, please note that varicose veins that develop during pregnancy generally improve without treatment within a few months after delivery. However, it is never a bad idea to ask a specialist.
Below are some vein removal procedures that your physician may recommend:
SclerotherapyThis form of treatment is a non-surgical procedure in which a solution is injected into the problem varicose veins or spider veins in order to cause its disappearance. More info on Sclerotherapy
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)EVLT works by heating the inside of the vein, which causes it to seal shut and disappear. This treatment requires that a very thin laser fiber be inserted into the damaged underlying vein.
Radiofrequency Occlusion This method treats the vein by heating them, causing the vein to contract and then close.
Laser and Pulsed Light TreatmentsThis form of vein therapy involves a light beam that is pulsed onto the veins in order to seal them off, causing them to dissolve. Successful light-based treatment requires adequate heating of the veins. Several treatments are usually needed for optimal results.
Ambulatory PhlebectomyThis procedure involves making tiny punctures or incisions through which the varicose veins are extracted. The incisions are so small no stitches are required. More info on Ambulatory Phlebectomy
Transilluminated Powered Phlebectomy (TIPP)The TIPP treatment is a minimally invasive procedure for removing varicose veins that is performed using the TriVex® System. Transillumination is a unique feature - much like a flashlight placed under the skin - that allows a surgeon to see, accurately target and remove varicose veins, then visually confirm the extraction.
Vein LigationDuring this type of vein surgery, incisions are made over the problem vein and the vein is tied off. This is done in order to cut off the flow of blood to the varicose vein, which in turn causes it to become less visible.
Vein StrippingVein stripping involves tying off of the upper end of a problem vein and then removing the vein. More info on Vein Stripping.
There are many other varicose vein treatments out there which include laser surgeries, catheter-assisted procedures and endoscopic vein surgeries. Please consult your physician or other medical care provider regarding what type of treatment is best for you.
Please also remember that current treatments for varicose veins and spider veins are highly successful. However, it's possible that varicose veins can recur.
Advantages of laser therapy for varicose veins
Traditional sclerotherapy involves injecting a chemical sclerosant (irritant) into the problematic veins in order to cause them to harden, close up, and eventually disappear. But if you're pregnant or if you are allergic to the chemicals used and can't undergo sclerotherapy, laser therapy is an alternative that's available to you.
For larger veins, laser therapy offers an alternative to traditional surgery. Compared to surgical procedures, laser treatment is generally considered to be less invasive.
How laser therapy for varicose veins works
In the treatment of spider veins, the laser is outside the body and directed at the skin. The light from the laser heats the blood vessel, eventually destroying it. Depending on how deep under the skin the spider veins are, different types of lasers can be used that produce light at different wavelengths. Those wavelengths penetrate the skin at different depths so that basically only the veins are heated. During the procedure, the skin is kept cool to avoid pain and to keep from getting a mild burn similar to a sunburn. Sometimes a topical anesthetic is given as well.
The procedure is done in our clinic and can usually be completed in less than 10 to 20 minutes. It usually takes two to four treatments several weeks apart to be fully effective. The skin above the veins can often look reddish for a couple of days. You probably won't see the final results for several months.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment
IPL treatment is similar to laser treatment, but it's not as focused, so it offers an advantage: It can cover an area of up to almost half an inch per pulse. The light isn't as precise as with a laser — it's not at a particular wavelength for optimal penetration of the skin, for example. As with laser treatment, you'll probably need a few treatments to get the job done.
Risks of laser therapy
Laser and IPL therapy may not be suitable for tanned or darker-skinned people, because the increased amount of melanin (pigmentation) in their skin can absorb the light and cause permanent discoloration. In patients who do experience some discoloration, though, it usually clears up within four to six months after treatment.
In the hands of an inexpert user, IPL treatment in particular can cause patchy darkening of the skin. In rare cases, the skin treated with a laser can get very thin and lead to ulceration.
Costs and insurance
Laser or IPL treatment of spider veins is generally considered cosmetic, not medical, and so is not covered by insurance. The cost will vary depending on how many veins are treated, their size, how extensive an area is treated, and how many treatments you need.
Please call us to book a free consultation with a certified Licenced Laser Technician.