Click on the following links for answers to frequently asked questions about vein conditions.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are abnormally enlarged, twisted blood vessels with valves that do not function properly. Normal veins channel blood back to the heart using one way valves. When the valves in the veins become abnormal, the blood tends to “pool” creating increased pressure on the vein walls. The increased pressure stretches the vein walls causing them to enlarge and twist to accommodate the increased blood volume. This gives the enlarged veins the appearance of blue, bumpy, rope-like veins that we know as varicose veins.
What are spider veins?
Spider veins are tiny, thin-walled dilated veins that lie close to the surface of the skin or within the skin wall itself. Their color is typically red, blue, or purple and can be easily seen. Most people will develop a few spider veins over the course of their lifetime. Spider veins do not develop into varicose veins.
What are the symptoms of varicose and spider veins?
Varicose veins develop gradually and progressively. They are unsightly and often a cause of considerable discomfort. The symptoms can include:
- Aching, heaviness, fatigue, and tenderness
- Burning or throbbing pain
- Leg cramps, particularly at night
- Ankle and lower leg swelling
- Brownish pigmentation of the skin
- Scarring and ulceration of the skin
What causes varicose veins?
Many factors contribute to the development of varicose and include:
- Heredity: if one parent has varicose veins the chances are 40% that a child will develop varicose veins. If both parents are afflicted with varicose veins, the odds that their offspring will develop varicose veins approaches 80%
- Gender: women are affected approximately 4 times more than men.
- Pregnancy: as many as 70 to 80% of pregnant women develop varicose veins during the first trimester. Increased maternal blood volume, pressure of the enlarged uterus on the veins returning blood from the legs, and elevated levels of progesterone are the leading factors causing varicose veins. Fortunately, 60 to 80% of varicose veins that develop during pregnancy disappear a few months after delivery.
- Varicosities that remain after delivery occur because the vein valves have become stretched, distorted or destroyed.
- Occupation & Activities: people who spend a great deal of time on their feet are much more likely to develop varicose veins. Workers such as teachers, flight attendants, health care personnel, waitresses, and sales clerks experience more symptoms, and greater discomfort than people of the same age who work in more sedentary occupations.
- Age: varicose veins and spider veins occur at any stage in life, however they worsen with advancing age.
- Obesity is related to the varicose veins but the cause is unclear.
- Progesterone is implicated in the development or worsening of existing varicose veins.
Are varicose veins preventable?
Varicose veins are not preventable. However, there are things you can do to ease mild symptoms. The following suggestions can give welcome, but temporary relief:
Exercise: Lower leg and thigh muscle contraction that occurs with walking is the primary means of returning blood to the heart from the legs. By strengthening your calf musculature, you can improve the flow of blood from your legs to your heart. The following exercises are recommended:
- Maintaining your ideal body weight
- Elevating your legs frequently
- Graduated elastic compression stockings as recommended by your physician
What happens to untreated varicose veins?
We are quite certain that varicose and spider veins will not disappear by themselves. The harmful effects of dysfunctional vein valves and the pressure effects of gravity on the walls of varicose can cause them to increase in size and number, progress in painful symptoms, and cause irreversible skin damage.
Early and effective treatment of varicose veins will eliminate the veins and the attendant symptoms. Skin damage can also be prevented, but once established, can only rarely be reversed.
Established varicose veins under pressure cause leaking of fluid and blood products into the normal tissues of the legs. Chronic accumulation of fluid and blood products induces a scarring of the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Brownish pigmentation, reddened inflammation, and painful skin ulcers commonly occur.
It is extremely important to seek early and effective treatment before irreversible skin damage occurs.
How vein is disease diagnosed?
For the great majority of patients, a simple visual examination by an experienced physician may be all that’s necessary to establish the presence of varicose veins.
It is, however, important to establish the origin of the varicose veins. Doppler analysis and duplex ultrasound are utilized to find the point(s) of origin of the varicose veins. Once the major source is determined, the optimal treatment plan will be apparent.
Detailed analysis of the venous system utilizing a sophisticated and accurate Duplex-Doppler scanning system is essential in establishing the correct diagnoses. The test is painless, informative, and usually lasts 20 to 30 min.