What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose (VAR-i-kos) veins are swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the surface of the skin. These veins usually occur in the legs, but they also can form in other parts of the body.
Varicose veins are a common condition. They usually cause few signs and symptoms. Sometimes varicose veins cause mild to moderate pain, blood clots, skin ulcers (sores), or other problems.
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood from your body's tissues to your heart. Your heart pumps the blood to your lungs to pick up oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood then is pumped to your body through blood vessels called arteries.
From your arteries, the blood flows through tiny blood vessels called capillaries, where it gives up its oxygen to the body's tissues. Your blood then returns to your heart through your veins to pick up more oxygen. For more information about blood flow, go to the Health Topics How the Heart Works article.
Veins have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing toward your heart. If the valves are weak or damaged, blood can back up and pool in your veins. This causes the veins to swell, which can lead to varicose veins.
Many factors can raise your risk for varicose veins. Examples of these factors include family history, older age, gender, pregnancy, overweight or obesity, lack of movement, and leg trauma.
Varicose veins are treated with lifestyle changes and medical procedures. The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve
Varicose veins usually don't cause medical problems. If they do, your doctor may simply suggest making lifestyle changes.
Sometimes varicose veins cause pain, blood clots, skin ulcers, or other problems. If this happens, your doctor may recommend one or more medical procedures. Some people choose to have these procedures to improve the way their veins look or to relieve pain.
Many treatments for varicose veins are quick and easy and don't require a long recovery.
Varicose Veins and Treatment Options
At NAVC we specialize in the evaluation and treatment of venous disorders including varicose and spider veins. Our physician will assess your veins with a physical exam and often a venous ultrasound to determine the best treatment options for you.
The goals of our venous treatment program are to relieve symptoms (cramping, aching and tiredness), enhance the normal venous circulation of your legs and to improve the cosmetic appearance of your legs.
The treatment of your varicose veins may include several forms of therapy, including:
- Compression Hose - Elastic stockings can be worn to compress the legs and superficial veins to force blood out of the surface vessels and into the deep veins and back to the heart. The improved circulation improves leg swelling and may reduce the formation of new varicose veins, but does not cure them.
- Sclerotherapy - This office procedure involves injecting a chemical agent into the diseased veins along with compression wraps to help collapse the vessels. After the blood in the treated veins is completely absorbed, the veins disappear.
- High Ligation - Outpatient surgery may occasionally be necessary in the treatment of varicose veins. This procedure is done in the hospital under local anesthesia or sedation. A small incision is made at the groin level and the abnormal superficial vein is located and ligated (separated or "tied" off). With this procedure you will be able to go home immediately and can often return to work the next day.
- EVLT (EndoVenous Laser Treatment) - This treatment uses targeted laser energy to seal the vein closed. This treatment is quick, minimally invasive, leaves no scar and is performed within the office. The physician will use ultrasound to guide a thin laser fiber which is inserted around the knee level to seal faulty veins. The EVLT procedure eliminates the bulging vein at its source.
Both EVLT and high-ligations are usually followed by sclerotherapy.