Varicose veins and spider veins, though unappealing to look at, are more than just cosmetic concerns. Whether you have swollen veins painful veins that affect your daily activities, or you simply want to improve your image, here is some general information regarding vein care that you should know.
What causes vein disorders?
Varicose veins and spider veins are part of a deeper issue known as chronic venous insufficiency—a condition where the valves that control blood flow from your legs to your heart begin to malfunction. It isn't life-threatening on its own, however it can lead to other complications (such as pain, swelling, leg ulcers, blood clots) if left untreated.
Symptoms of CVI include:
- Pain, heaviness, dull aches or cramping
- Swelling of the lower legs or feet
- Varicose veins—swollen, twisted veins visible just under the surface of the skin
- Red, crusted or weeping skin
- Hardening and thickening of the skin on the ankles and legs (lipodermatosclerosis)
- Slow-healing open wounds (ulcers) on the legs or ankles
Symptoms may get worse while standing for a long time and improve after elevating the legs for several minutes. Elevating your legs reduces the pressure in your veins and helps your blood flow back toward your heart.
Diagnosing varicose veins and other vein issues
In order to properly determine what's causing your symptoms, you will first need a full evaluation of your medical history, family history, medications, and any previous injuries or illnesses.
You will then need a physical exam, followed by a duplex ultrasound to examine your the blood flow in your legs in order to identify any venous issues related to your symptoms.
Types of treatments for vein disorders
There are a number of treatments available for vein disorders; they range from minimally invasive to surgical. They include:
- Compression stockings. A common first-step to treat your discomfort from CVI by squeezing your veins and helping them move blood up into your heart.
- Sclerotherapy. A non-invasive and almost pain-free in-office procedure where your doctor injects a liquid or foam chemical into your vein to make it shrink, collapse, and eventually dissolve.
- Endovenous thermal laser ablation (EVLT). A common and minimally-invasive procedure that uses a thin wire-like laser inserted into your vein to heat it from the inside and make it collapse and dissolve.
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA). Very similar to EVLT, but uses radiofrequency energy to heat the vein instead of laser energy.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy is a minimally-invasive procedure where your doctor makes small cuts along your problem vein and removes it piece-by-piece with a hook.
- Ligation and stripping. A procedure to tie-off and remove long veins in your leg through incisions in your ankle and groin. It is an invasive procedure that is now uncommon because modern treatments like EVLT and EVRA are more effective and less-invasive.
Your costs depend on many factors including your area, surgeon, and health insurance coverage. Elective cosmetic surgery is not generally covered. You can discuss costs with your surgeon and health insurance provider for detailed information.