Causes & Symptoms
Veins use one-way values to direct blood flow from your body back to the heart. As you age or when certain genetics are applicable, the one-way flow at these valves starts to fail and some blood is able to flow backwards. As blood begins to pool in areas with two-directional flow, pressure begins to build along the walls of these veins and the veins become larger, leading to the cosmetic appearance of varicose veins. Pregnancy and excess weight can increase the pressure in your veins, increasing the likelihood of varicose veins. Having a job that requires extended periods of standing or sitting can also put you at risk.
Varicose veins appear as blue or red bulging or twisting cords, usually on the legs or feet. Not all varicose veins will cause pain, but the condition generally worsens over time and other symptoms may develop including:
- Aching or Heaviness
- Burning, Itching, or Throbbing
- Swelling or Skin Coloration
- Bleeding or Ulcers
Diagnosis & Treatment
Physician will use a visual examination to determine whether you have varicose veins, but may order a Doppler test or a duplex ultrasound scan as well. Doppler tests allow the physician to see the direction of blood flow in your veins and to check for obstructions. Duplex ultrasound scans provide the physician with a color image of your veins and can measure the speed of blood flow.
Treatment of varicose veins can be done outpatient and with a short recovery period thanks to the minimally invasive treatment methods listed below:
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) is an alternative to traditional vein stripping and is considered the gold standard for treating vein disease. A thin fiber is inserted into the damaged vein through a small opening in the skin and then a laser is used to seal off the vein. Since varicose veins are on the surface of the skin, sealing the vein does not significantly affect blood flow; the blood will instead flow to other healthy veins.
Patients generally spend about 45 minutes in the office and resume normal activity within 24 hours.
Ambulatory Phlebectomy is the removal of a vein through a small puncture in the skin. This procedure is done under local anesthesia and the patient is generally able to walk right after the procedure. No stitches are required.