Unsightly varicose and spider veins tend to increase with age. Some can be removed with relative ease. Others, not so much. Learn more.
Update on Varicose Veins
WHAT ARE VARICOSE AND SPIDER VEINS?
Varicose veins are large, swollen blue blood vessels that usually develop in the legs and can be easily seen through the skin. Spider veins are smaller red, purple and/or blue vessels that can also be seen through the skin. They are usually visible on the legs and face.
• Hormonal affects of pregnancy, puberty, menopause
• Post menopausal hormonal replacement
• Occupations that involve a lot of standing
• History of blood clots
• Pressure in the abdomen from tumors, constipation, and tight garments like girdles
Symptoms vary greatly. Some women object to the unsightly appearance of spider and/or varicose veins, but suffer no pain or discomfort. Others experience aching or cramping in the legs, tiredness, restlessness, burning, throbbing, and tingling. In younger women, symptoms may be worse during pregnancy or parts of the menstrual cycle. Rarely, varicose veins can form a painful blood clot called thrombophlebitis.
CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS
These options aim to reduce painful or uncomfortable symptoms, and also to prevent or minimize further deterioration. Wearing support stockings is the most conservative approach. They can be bought online, and at surgical supply stores and some pharmacies. Lifestyle changes, such as better skin hygiene, weight loss, and walking for exercise is another way to help control your condition.
RADICAL TREATMENTS OPTIONS
Sclerotherapy is a procedure (used since the 1930s) that can be used on both varicose and spider veins. A salt solution or detergent is injected into the vein, causing it to disappear gradually over three to six weeks. It is simple, inexpensive, and can be done in an outpatient setting. Side effects may include swelling, itching, and skin color changes in the affected area. (Spider veins may not disappear completely. Also, new spider veins may reappear in the same area.)
Lasers and intense pulsed light treatments can also be used on both varicose and spider veins. Surface laser or intense pulsed light devices use heat energy to selectively damage or destroy abnormal veins. These treatments may involve some minor discomfort. Side effects may include discoloration and blister formation. Also, results can be less effective than sclerotherapy. (Spider veins may not disappear completely. Also, new spider veins may reappear in the same area.)
Endovenous laser treatment is used on varicose veins. A small laser fiber releases pulses of light into the vein, causing it to collapse. This treatment is done under local anesthesia.
Radiofrequency occlusion is used on varicose veins. A small catheter is inserted into each vein to deliver radio frequency energy to the vein wall. The wall then collapses and is sealed shut. This procedure is usually done in an outpatient or office setting, sometimes under local anesthesia.
Surgery is generally used to treat large varicose veins. Techniques include tying off veins, removing long vein segments, or removing large surface veins through very small incisions. Surgery may be performed using local, spinal, or general anesthesia. Most patients do not need to stay overnight in the hospital.
Many insurance companies cover the cost of treating varicose veins, but not spider veins. Medicare and insurance companies do not cover cosmetic treatment costs.
For more information:
• webmd.com - new treatments
• clevelandclinic.org - overview of varicose veins
• medicalnewstoday.com - causes, diagnoses, treatments
• webmd.com - insurance coverage information
• mayoclinic.org - treatments for spider veins