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What are Varicose Veins?

Apr 07, 2020

What are Varicose Veins?

Abnormal Blood Flow Causing Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are dilated veins that lie beneath the surface of the skin and often a cosmetic concern. They may represent an underlying condition called chronic venous insufficiency, and are secondary to impaired venous flow leading to increased outward venous pressure to skin veins. Leg veins range from tiny, superficial "spider veins" to large, blue "varicose" veins.

Varicose veins are blood vessels that are abnormally dilated, appearing swollen, twisted and can be painful. They occur most commonly in the legs and feet. Spider veins (telangiectasia) are the smaller, flat, abnormally-dilated blood vessels visible on the skin. Varicose and spider veins appear as blue, purple, or red veins on the legs and calves.

Spider veins appear both in men and women and become visible only when there is a heavy pressure exerted on these veins. They appear most commonly in women because of hormonal imbalance during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Puberty, hormonal changes, weight gain, lack of physical activity, pregnancy, birth control pills, and sitting or standing for a long time are some of the factors that causes spider veins or varicose veins. They even occur when the skin is tied up tightly with any elastic band. In some cases, these veins occur on the face and cheeks of fair-skin people when they are exposed to the sun.

What are the Causes of Varicose Veins?

The actual cause for spider veins remains unknown. One of the probable cause is impaired circulation of impure blood. This is caused when the venous blood (impure blood) that flows through these veins get deviated. Due to this deviation, the circulation is interrupted or the blood flow gets restricted causing the vein to swell up. Spider veins are also caused due to weakness in the blood vessel walls that are close to the surface of the skin.

What are the Signs/ Symptoms of Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins appear as twisted, bulging large surface veins with a purple or bluish coloration. They may cause leg heaviness, burning, throbbing, restless legs, pain after prolonged standing, itching, inflammation. However, most individuals remain asymptomatic for years before symptoms manifest.

How are Varicose Veins Diagnosed?

Veins are typically identified by the patient first. Further testing is not required until patient begins to develop symptoms. Testing may include venous ultrasound and/or CT scan of the leg veins for further evaluation. 

How are Varicose Veins Treated?

Treatment options include leg elevation, and avoidance of prolonged standing or sitting, which may worsen the size and frequency of varicose veins. Bleeding or painful varicose veins may require endovenous ablation, phlebectomy or sclerotherapy for definitive treatment. Even after treatment, varicose veins may re-develop in other areas if the underlying cause has not been adequately treated. Sclerotherapy is safe, simple, and quick. The sclerosing/irritant solution is injected into the target site, where the spider veins or varicose veins are present. The sclerosing solution irritates the lining of the blood vessel, causing the vein to swell and stick together. Over time, the venous blemishes turn into scar tissue and may disappear. Sclerotherapy slowly clears leg veins and may be completely resolved in two to six months, depending on the vessel size. Spider veins on the face are treated with laser therapy. The number of veins treated in one session will be decided by your dermatologist based on the size and location of the veins. There will be a two-week interval between first and second treatments and then a 1-month period to assess response.

Other conventional methods for treatment of Spider Veins would include:

Lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid sitting or standing for long hours without taking a break.

  • Physical activity should be included in your daily routine. This will help improve circulation in the veins.

  • Obesity will increase the risk of pressure being exerted on the blood walls. Lose weight if you are obese.

  • Avoid wearing tight clothes that may interrupt circulation.

  • Avoid wearing high heeled shoes. Calf muscles put in a lot of energy when you try to walk in heels. Thus when the calf muscles are at rest the circulation will be improved.

Altus Coolglide™ is a new technology used to treat spider and varicose veins. Altus Coolglide™ uses wavelengths of pulsed light to destroy spider veins. It produces a high-energy flash of light that passes harmlessly through the skin with minimal surface damage. The light is absorbed by the blood and is converted into heat, which damages the underlying vein that is slowly absorbed by the body over a period of a few weeks.