What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins occur when the superficial leg veins become enlarged and overfilled with blood due to dysfunctional valves. The condition affects approximately 40 percent of all adults with a greater likelihood in women. Symptoms are common and often under-reported due to lack of awareness or even embarrassment.  However, because untreated vein disease can have significant long-term consequences, patients should be aware of the most common symptoms experienced:

  • Leg pain
  • Heaviness
  • Restless legs
  • Leg cramps
  • Swelling
  • Skin discoloration or leg ulcerations

In advanced cases, active or healed ulcers can be present on the ankles or shins over diseased veins.  These areas are at risk for non-healing, infection, and bleeding when left untreated. It is important to understand that varicose veins are not always visible and long term effects from untreated disease can still be serious. Because of this concern, any unexplained leg symptoms should be evaluated by a qualified vein specialist.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Blood is returned to the heart by a network of veins in the legs.  There are both superficial and deep veins that form this highway of veins, however it is our superficial veins that are most vulnerable to venous insufficiency.  In general, blood is prevented from falling backwards with gravity due to muscle function and valves. When the valves in your superficial veins become dysfunctional, the blood accumulates in the legs causing swelling, pain, and heaviness from varicose veins.   The common risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time
  • Aging
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy

Who Treats Varicose Veins?

vein specialist is a doctor that specializes in treating spider and varicose vains and the underlying condition, venous insufficiency.  A qualified vein doctor will have completed formal training in endovenous procedures during either a residency or fellowship in vascular surgery or interventional cardiology. Vascular surgery, Interventional Radiology and Invasive Cardiology are formally recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties certified to perform endovascular procedures.

Varicose Veins Treatments

Treatment is essential if you are experiencing symptoms such as leg pain, leg swelling, skin discoloration or restless legs.  The treatment can be as simple as appropriate lifestyle changes and compression stockings. However, for some patients, conservative measures can be insufficient and additional treatments may be warranted.  Vascular treatments including those for veins should only be performed by a board-certified vein specialist.

Minimally Invasive Varicose Veins Treatments

Varicose vein removal and treatment of venous insufficiency has evolved from the days of vein stripping.  Instead, today’s procedures are minimally-invasive and suited for all types of vein conditions. Best yet, they are done without the need for sedation (unless requested by the patient) and are performed in under 1 hour.

These minimally invasive treatments for varicose veins include:

  • VenaSeal: Like most other vein treatments today, VenaSeal is also catheter-based technology. However,  unlike ablation, the catheter is used to inject a medical adhesive that fuses the diseased vein closed. Over time, the vein is reabsorbed by the body.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: Catheter-based technology that delivers radiofrequency generated heat to the blood vessel walls.  The procedure is done with only small amounts of local anesthetic and can be completed in less than 30 minutes.
  • Sclerotherapy: A medicated solution is injected in either liquid or aerated form (foam sclerotherapy). This medication acts as a sclerosant and disrupts the walls of diseased veins causing them to collapse and eventually be absorbed.
  • Ambulatory Phlebectomy: This requires the most skill and patience, but still is minimally invasive.  Tiny incisions are made over large, protuberant veins so that they can be directly removed.  Unlike stripping, these procedures are done within the office and patients do not require any downtime.  The best part, any large visible varicose veins are immediately removed leading to dramatic skin improvements.
  • Clarivein: Another catheter-based technique with some special uses in certain varicose vein anatomy.  In this case, mechanical force and sclerosant are used to eliminate diseased veins.

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