If you are one of the millions of Americans that develop varicose veins or spider veins, then you may feel discomfort and pain in your legs—or at the very least, feel uncomfortable showing your legs. Spider veins are small red or blue veins that may look like a spider-web or branches on a tree. Larger varicose veins may look twisted and ropey, and may even be mistaken for a bruise. Some veins may appear as blue or purple streaks on the legs, and larger veins may bulge or protrude above the surface of the skin.
Causes of Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Veins have one-way valves which prevent blood from backing up into the legs when we stand or sit. When the valves become incompetent (or begin to reflux), blood pools and causes an increase in pressure in the leg veins.
Symptoms of varicose veins may include:
Swelling in the legs
Itching, burning, or throbbing
Discomfort after sitting or standing for long periods
Achy, heavy legs
Bleeding from the veins
Severe varicose veins can compromise the nutrition of the skin, leading to eczema, inflammation or even ulceration of the lower leg.
The primary predisposing factor for varicose veins is heredity. Other causes of varicose veins include aging, prolonged standing, obesity, leg injury or prior deep or superficial vein thrombosis. Women are more likely than men to suffer from varicose and spider veins and have a 50 percent chance of developing them in their lifetime. Varicose veins may result from increased hormone levels, blood volume and pressure from the enlarged uterus during pregnancy. While these generally improve after delivery, abnormal veins often worsen with each successive pregnancy.
Varicose Vein Consultation
Whether or not you are bothered by the cosmetics of varicose veins, you should schedule a consultation to have them evaluated. At Emory Aesthetic Center, our knowledgeable vascular surgeon will evaluate your varicose and spider veins and recommend a course of treatment that could bring you relief. Diagnostic tools, such as ultrasonography may be used to evaluate the severity of the condition. This initial consultation is important for learning about all of your options and getting to know our skilled, board certified vascular surgeon. When you come in for your consultation, be sure to ask any questions you have about varicose veins and their treatment, as this is a great learning opportunity. Once you have discussed the possible treatment options, you and your vascular surgeon will begin to plan your treatment.
Varicose Vein Candidates
Candidates for varicose vein and spider vein treatments are people who are having physical symptoms associated with abnormal veins or those who are unhappy with the appearance of their legs. Patients should be prepared to follow all directions given by their physician and have realistic expectations about the cosmetic changes that can be expected.
Varicose Vein Procedures
There are several different minimally-invasive techniques that can be used to treat varicose veins, and the procedures will vary according to patient needs.
Sclerotherapy involves injections through a tiny needle. A needle is used to inject the veins with a solution that irritates the vein lining, causing the veins to collapse and ultimately be reabsorbed so that they are no longer visible. Depending on the type and number of veins being treated, one to several sclerotherapy sessions may be needed.
Endovenous Vein Treatment
We offer two different technologies for this treatment: Laser Treatment (EVLT) and Radiofrequency (VNUS Closure).
Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) is an outpatient alternative to surgical stripping of the saphenous vein to treat varicose veins. After applying local anesthesia, a small catheter is inserted into the damaged vein to cauterize the vein, causing it to collapse and close. Afterwards, a bandage or compression stocking is placed on the treated leg.
With endovenous laser treatment, a laser is advanced to the top of the abnormal vein under ultrasound guidance. The laser is then slowly withdrawn, delivering heat along the way to collapse and seal the damaged vein.
VNUS closure is a similar procedure that uses electrical radiofrequency energy to heat and close the vein. As with the EVLT, a bandage or compression stocking is placed on the treated leg.
Using local anesthesia, this outpatient surgical varicose vein treatment removes surface varicose veins through tiny punctures that typically leave nearly imperceptible marks. Following the procedure, a bandage and/or compression stocking is worn for a short period of time.
Varicose Vein Recovery
Since none of the treatment methods involve large incisions, there are no sutures to worry about. Patients may need to wear bandages and compression socks for a few days following the treatment, but there is very little downtime involved, and most people are back at work by the next day. Though there are few activity restrictions after varicose vein procedures, your surgeon will give you specific instructions about how to care for yourself properly following treatment. Your physician may have short term travel limitations based on your history and procedure(s) performed.
Varicose Veins FAQs
What causes varicose veins?
Superficial venous reflux is a leading cause of varicose veins. This condition develops when the valves that usually keep blood flowing out of your legs become damaged or diseased. This causes blood to pool in your legs. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, leg heaviness and fatigue, as well as varicose veins in your legs.
What treatments are available for varicose veins?
Your physician may choose either laser treatment (EVLT) or radiofrequency energy (VNUS closure) to perform the ablation procedure. A vein ablation is a minimally invasive procedure for superficial venous reflux, in which a thin catheter is inserted into the vein through a small opening and heat is used to collapse and seal the vein shut.
How does the laser and/or the radiofrequency ablation procedure work?
Since valves cannot be repaired, the only alternative is to re-route blood flow through healthy veins. Traditionally, this has been done by surgically removing (stripping or ligating) the troublesome vein. These procedures provide a less invasive alternative to stripping or ligation by simply closing off the problem vein instead. Once the diseased vein is closed, other healthy veins take over the transport of blood from the legs back to the heart.
With the EVLT or VNUS closure procedures there is no need for formal surgery. Instead, the vein remains in place and is closed using a special catheter inserted through a small puncture. This virtually eliminates the bruising and pain often associated with surgery. In addition, surgery for the vein is usually performed in an operating room under general anesthesia, while ablation treatments are performed in an outpatient setting using local anesthesia.
How long does a vein ablation procedure take?
Vein ablation using the laser or the radiofrequency technology both take approximately 30 minutes to an hour, though patients normally spend 60-90 minutes at the medical facility due to normal pre- and post-treatment protocols.
Is the vein ablation procedure using laser technology or radiofrequency technology painful?
Patients report feeling little, if any, pain during the procedure. Your physician will give you a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area.
How Can We Help You Today?
Need help? We will be delighted to assist you today, so please call us at 404-778-6880. We look forward to hearing from you.