Did you know?

whatareveinsIf you suffer from varicose veins, you're in good company. Approximately half the population has some form of venous disease and varicose veins, specifically, affect about one out of two people age 50 and older, and 15% of all adults. Those dilated, "not so pretty," blue veins that pop up and out, usually on your legs, affects about half of all women and a lesser percentage of men. You might not like the way they look, but varicose veins can be more than a cosmetic problem. Some people with varicosities, as they're called, experience a dull ache, fatigue, and swelling in the legs, especially after a long day of sitting or standing. You might wonder what causes varicose veins and why they're so common, and, most importantly, what you can do to treat them.

Although varicose veins are most commonly misconceived as only a cosmetic issue, they can actually be a sign of a more serious underlying disease.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Veins are blood vessels that carry blood back to your heart. Veins have small valves that block the flow of blood backwards. Sometimes these valves become damaged, allowing blood to collect inside the veins. So much fluid can build up that the vein becomes dilated and enlarged and visible on the surface of the skin. This is what we call varicose veins. At times, the skin around the dilated vein darkens or becomes red or itchy. The worst complication of venous reflux or insufficiency are ulcers which will not heal unless the reflux in the superficial vein is corrected.

It's not always possible to prevent varicose veins, but certain factors increase the risk for them. Anything that places stress on the veins in your legs can do it. For example, some women develop varicose veins during pregnancy as the weight of the growing fetus places added pressure on the veins and hormones cause the veins to relax. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for varicose as is genetics. If you have family members with varicosities, you're at higher risk for them too Do you sit or stand for long periods of time? Prolonged sitting or standing increases the risk of valve damage and varicosities.

Can You Treat Varicose Veins?

Good news - there are treatments for varicose veins... At Southeast Texas Vein Clinic, our board certified cardiologists specialize in overall vascular care. understand the anatomy and intricacies of how your veins work. Before suggesting treatment, we may recommend an ultrasound to make sure you don't have a blood clot in a deeper vein. Once a clot is ruled out, we'll discuss the available treatment options.

One procedure called foam sclerotherapy causes varicose veins to self-destruct. A physician injects the abnormal vein with a solution that damages the inner lining of the vein and causes it to clot off and disappear, although it may take several treatments. If you have large or numerous varicose veins, they may also be removed by small incisions and local anesthesia.

Spider Veins versus Varicose Veins

A close relative of varicose veins is spider veins, another common problem involving veins. Spider veins are tiny clusters of superficial veins that often form the shape of a spider web. Unlike varicose veins that are typically enlarged and elevated, spider veins are usually small and flat and can appear almost anywhere on your body. Like varicose veins, they're caused by damage to veins but spider veins are more of a cosmetic problem and typically cause no symptoms. Sun exposure and hormones, especially birth control pills, and obesity play a role in the development of spider veins. Depending on the size, treatment for spider veins may differ from that of varicose veins. Most spider veins can be treated by tiny injections that make them disappear.

Overall, vein problems can be strictly a cosmetic issue, like spider veins, or painful and uncomfortable, in the case of varicose veins.

Treating varicose veins can now be done using an innovative, non-surgical procedure called endovascular laser therapy.

In the past, treating varicose veins required vein stripping, an invasive surgery that was followed by a hospital stay, a long recovery period and a less-than-acceptable aesthetic result. Now, with endovenous laser therapy, we are able to get rid of unsightly varicose veins with a simple procedure performed right in a doctor's office. The patient is awake during the procedure and can walk out of the office immediately afterward.

Basically, the procedure uses laser energy to cause the varicose vein to collapse and dissolve. Since the superficial veins in which varicosities form are secondary to other more important veins located deeper in the leg, making them collapse and dissolve poses no health risk. The body simply compensates for the loss by redirecting blood flow to other healthy veins in the leg. The best part is that endovenous laser therapy causes only minimal discomfort, which means the patient can return to normal activities the same day.

We at Southeast Texas Vein Clinic are happy to announce that we now offer this minimally invasive procedure, which is usually covered by medical insurance. So if you or someone you know is considering varicose vein treatment, call us today to set up an appointment.