varicose veins

Varicose Veins: Causes, Treatment, Diagnosis, and Prevention

What Are Varicose Veins? 

Varicose veins are large, swollen veins with a bumpy texture that often appear purple or blue. 

Sometimes the valves in our veins don’t work properly. There are many contributing factors, which we will discuss later, but the end result is always the same.

Poor circulation and build-up of blood in veins closest to the surface of the skin become swollen and begin to bulge out.

Varicose veins are not considered a serious medical condition, however, they have been known to cause pain, discomfort and even more serious problems in some instances. 

Varicose veins are noticeable and may cause people to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.  So what’s the best treatment for varicose veins?  More on that later, but first; did you know?

Varicose veins affect about 23% of all Americans, with women being twice as likely to get them.  If you suffer this common condition, you are not alone! By the end of this article, you will be better informed about the solution to your problem. No more pain, no more unhealthy veins! 

If you want to find out more about venous vs arterial insufficiency, we also covered that!

Varicose Veins Symptoms

Visual symptoms may include: 

  • Veins are dark purple or blue in appearance
  • Veins are twisted, bulging, and have a bumpy texture to them
  • Skin discoloration around a varicose vein
  • Swollen ankles
  • Venous Eczema – skin in the affected area is red, dry, and itchy
  • Spider veins

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Heavy feeling in legs
  • Itchy feeling around veins
  • Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in lower legs
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for extended periods of time
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Minor injury in the affected area may result in prolonged bleeding

A lot of patients ask: What’s the difference between spider veins and varicose veins?

Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins

Spider veins (also called telangiectasias) are small, usually, less than 1 mm in diameter veins, that appear on the surface of the skin. They are red, blue or purple, and have the appearance of a spiderweb. 

Varicose veins are larger (typically 3 mm in diameter) than spider veins. Spider veins can develop on the legs, chest, and face, while varicose veins primarily develop on the legs. 

Spider vein causes are not always related to faulty one-way valves, as they can be caused by different forms of venous insufficiency.

Someone can have both varicose veins and spider veins, however, it’s important to note that spider veins do not always turn into varicose veins.

Treatment of spider veins alone is usually considered cosmetic so it’s not covered by insurance. 

Varicose Vein Diagnosis 

A visual examination by a physician will decide whether or not a patient has varicose veins. 

Diagnostic tests are sometimes ordered by the physician. 

Ultrasound Scan: Provides images of the veins and their structure which helps the physician measure the speed of blood flow and identify any abnormalities. 

Doppler test: Similar to the ultrasound scan, as it checks the direction of blood flow, but also checks for blood clots and other obstructions in the veins. 

What Causes Varicose Veins? 

When sitting or standing for long periods of time, blood begins to pool in the leg veins, which increases the pressure within the veins, causing them to stretch. This can weaken the walls of the vein and damage the valves.

Blood begins to collect in the veins, which causes the veins to become enlarged. 

The veins closest to the skin (superficial) begin bulging out and what you have at the end are visually noticeable veins.

What Causes Varicose Veins?
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Risk Factors For Varicose Veins

Factors that may increase pressure in the veins include:

  • Older Age 
  • Weight Gain
  • Gender (Females more at risk) 
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth Control Pills
  • Heredity (Family History of Varicose Veins)
  • History of Blood Clots
  • Inactivity 
  • Desk Jobs
  • Damaged Veins
  • Restless leg syndrome

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Varicose veins can cause pain, swelling, restless leg syndrome and fatigue in the legs. These symptoms are not to be taken lightly as they can affect daily activities and quality of life. 

One danger of varicose veins is the possibility of blood clots. When varicose veins clot the condition is called Superficial Phlebitis which can be painful but not necessarily life-threatening. 

However Superficial Phlebitis can progress into a deep vein clot known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. 

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Symptoms of blood clots may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling 
  • Redness of the leg

A piece of a blood clot may break off and travel to the lungs (Pulmonary Embolism) which is a very serious condition that can cause death. 

Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing, 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Sweating 
  • Fainting 

Varicose veins can also be the first stage of Chronic Venous Disease which is characterized by brawny skin discoloration primarily found on the calf and ankle. The blood can leak into the tissue which results in darkening and hardening of the skin, which can cause ulcers.

It is important to discuss any symptoms you may be having with your primary healthcare provider, as they can assess your condition and send you to a vascular surgeon.

How to Prevent Varicose Veins? 

While there are no ways to completely prevent varicose veins, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting varicose veins or developing additional ones. 

The following measures to reduce the risk of varicose veins include: 

  • Exercise
  • Weight management 
  • Eating high-fiber, low salt diet
  • Elevating your legs
  • Frequently changing your sitting or standing position 
  • Avoiding high heels and tight hosiery 
How to Prevent Varicose Veins?

How To Get Rid of Varicose Veins? 

Aside from self-care listed above, compression stockings are usually the first approach to try varicose vein removal before moving on to other treatments. Some people look for alternatives such as varicose vein creams, but those are not recommended as they are deemed ineffective.

Compression stockings help the vein and leg muscles move blood more efficiently. The amount of compression varies by type and brand. You can purchase compression stocking at most pharmacies and medical supply stores.

Your insurance will cover the cost of compression stockings if varicose veins are causing you symptoms. 

For varicose veins that developed during pregnancy, their expected improvement is within three to 12 months after delivery. 

Varicose Vein Treatment 

High Ligation and Vein Stripping 

The affected vein is tied off before it joins a deep vein. The vein is then removed through small incisions. The blood circulation shifts to the deeper vein.

Radiofrequency Ablаtіоn

Radiofrequency Ablаtіоn (RFA, аlѕо knоwn as VNUS or ClosureFAST, is a Mеdісаrе-apprоvеd, safe, minimally invasive procedure of removing varicose veins.

Unlike ligation and stripping where cuts are made over the vein, which is then tied off and stripped, RFA uses clean thermal energy inside the vein to gently close it off, leaving you with little to no marks that heal quickly.

The entire procedure takes between 15-45 minutes and can be performed on an outpatient basis. This is the preferred treatment for larger varicose veins. 

Sclerotherapy 

The doctor injects small and mid-sized varicose veins with a solution that scars and closes the veins. 

Endovenous Laser Ablation

Strong bursts of light are sent onto the vein which makes it slowly fade and disappear. 

Ambulatory Phlebectomy 

The varicose veins are removed through a series of small skin punctures that are numbed beforehand. 

Varicose Veins Treatment Cost

The following varicose vein treatment costs are estimates without insurance. 

  • High Ligation and Vein Stripping – $1,500 to $3,000 plus fees charged by the hospital
  • Radiofrequency Ablаtіоn – $1500 to $3,000 
  • Sclerotherapy – $700 per session 
  • Endovenous Laser Ablation – $2000-$7000 
  • Ambulatory Phlebectomy $1000-$3000 per leg

The Best Treatment for Varicose Veins?

The Best Treatment for Varicose Veins?

While each case is unique and may even require multiple different treatments, radiofrequency ablаtіоn (RFA) has a 95-98% success rate, while traditional surgery has 85%.

Unlike Endovenous Laser Ablation, RFA causes less post-procedural discomfort. In addition, RFA is covered by most insurance and Medicare.

We consider RFA to be one of the safest most effective ways to treat major varicose veins.

Conclusion  

By covering the following topics:

  • Varicose Veins Symptoms
  • Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins
  • Varicose Vein Diagnosis 
  • What Causes Varicose Veins? 
  • Risk Factors For Varicose Veins
  • Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?
  • How to Prevent Varicose Veins? 
  • How To Get Rid of Varicose Veins? 
  • Varicose Vein Treatment 
  • Varicose Veins Treatment Cost
  • The Best Treatment for Varicose Veins?

We have given you all the knowledge you need on varicose veins and the way to treat them.

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