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Varicose Vein Disease

Varicose veins are one of the most common problems of blood vessels and are usually not a sign of a serious medical problem.

Appearance, Symptoms

Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. The most common form of varicose veins progresses downward in either or both of two large veins near the surface of the leg.

Symptoms of varicose veins are easy to recognize.  They include:

  • Aching in the legs
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Skin itching
  • Skin ulcers

Symptoms may worsen after standing or sitting for long periods of time. People with varicose veins often do not experience symptoms but may be concerned about the appearance of the veins. Varicose veins develop slowly, but once they start they progress, they do not get better on their own.

Causes

Some people may be more likely to develop varicose veins because of their genetics, the aging process, or hormone changes. Varicose veins may also result from conditions that increase the pressure on the leg veins, such as obesity, pregnancy, or having an occupation that requires you to stand for long periods of time.  If they occur during pregnancy, it is due to increased pressure from the uterus on the pelvic and leg veins, increased blood volume and changing hormones. 

Varicose veins on the surface of your legs are not associated with dangerous blood clots that can travel to your heart or lungs and cause an obstruction (embolism).  Any clot that forms near the surface will generally be small.  There may be inflammation but the clot does not seriously threaten your health.

Treatment

Treatment for varicose and spider veins can be either conservative through the use of compression stockings, elevation of the leg or more corrective through the use of surgical techniques such as vein injections, vein closure or vein removal (stripping).

  • Schelotherapy – This procedure is with a small needle that enters the vein and injects a medication which irritates the veins causing them to collapse.  Schelotherapy is most often used in the early stages of spider and varicose veins when the veins are smaller in diameter.
  • Endovenous Laser Treatment – This treatment involves the introduction of a fine laser fiber into the greater saphenous vein which delivers tiny pulses of laser light causing the vein to spasm and collapse.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation – works by transmitting electrical impulses which are converted into heat at selected areas of the vein causing the vein to contract to such a point that the body reabsorbs the venous material.
  • Stripping – The vein is tied off and then pulled out through a small incision.