Are Vein Problems Always a Medical Concern?
Spider and varicose veins can create a significant cosmetic embarrassment for sufferers. But are they more than that? In some cases, visible veins can be an outward symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition. When that condition is left unchecked, symptoms can get worse and treatment may be less effective. It is important to know whether your veins are primarily cosmetic or a significant medical concern that needs to be addressed.
What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins usually appear as red, blue or purple lines that form a sort of network on the skin’s surface. They get their name because they often resemble a spider’s web. These veins frequently appear on the legs, but they can also make an appearance on the abdomen, arms or face. Spider veins are rarely accompanied by noticeable symptoms, but they can become a significant cosmetic concern if the network gets larger.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins often appear as a single, bulging vessel. The vein may be blue or purple but in many cases, they are flesh-colored and protrude above the surface of the skin. These veins nearly always appear on the lower leg, particularly on the backs of the calves or behind the knee. They can also become a significant cosmetic embarrassment, as the veins may become quite obtrusive.
In addition to the cosmetic concerns associated with varicose veins, these swollen vessels are also more likely to cause physical symptoms. Those symptoms might include:
-Heaviness or aching in the lower legs
-Swelling of the lower legs, ankles or feet
-Leg cramps or restless legs
-Irritation or burning of the skin around the vessels
-Changes to the skin’s texture or color
-The formation of open sores around the ankle, known as venous ulcers
In many cases, symptoms will worsen throughout the day, particularly if you spend a significant amount of time on your feet or sitting without a break. Elevating the legs above heart level may relieve the symptoms – temporarily. However, once you get up and active, the symptoms are likely to return.
For some varicose vein sufferers, the symptoms may become severe enough to prevent them from participating in some types of activities. They can also have a direct impact on a person’s quality of life. In addition, the cosmetic embarrassment of both spider and varicose veins can keep some from wearing certain types of clothing or participating in some activities.
The Underlying Cause of Visible Veins
Varicose veins are often a visible sign of an underlying condition known as chronic venous insufficiency or CVI. CVI occurs when there is damage inside the vein, specifically to small valves inside the vessel that are responsible for keeping blood moving in a single direction back to the heart. When these valves become damaged, blood can reflux back into the vein, which leads to weakening of the vessel, swelling and eventual varicosity.
The problem typically occurs in the veins of the lower legs because these vessels have to work much harder to push blood against gravity and the body’s own weight to get blood back up to the heart. These hard-working veins are more susceptible to damage, which is why varicose veins usually appear in this area. It also explains why symptoms are relieved by elevating the legs for a period of time, since this give the lower leg veins a short break from their difficult job.
CVI is a medical condition that can get worse over time if it is left unchecked. Some of the potential complications include:
Bleeding – If varicose veins are close to the skin’s surface, they can bleed of there is any trauma to the area. This bleeding can be very difficult to stop in some cases.
Phlebitis – Varicose veins can also become swollen and inflamed, a condition known as phlebitis. This condition can lead to pain, redness and warmth around the affected vessel.
Blood Clots – Because blood flow is less efficient in these affected veins, blood clots can form. If a blood clot forms in a deep vein of the leg, it is known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. If the clot breaks free from its original location, it can travel to the lung and cause a potentially life-threatening event known as a pulmonary embolism.
Varicose Eczema – The skin can also be affected by CVI. Varicose eczema is characterized by redness, irritation and flaking skin. If left untreated, it can lead to thickening of the skin and discoloration that can be permanent.
Venous Ulcers – When skin changes occur, the skin becomes more vulnerable to serious injury. Even a small cut can create a large open sore known as a venous ulcer. These sores can grow quite large and are very challenging to treat, due to a high recurrence rate.
Diagnosing Your Condition
If you are concerned about your spider or varicose veins, there is a relatively easy diagnostic test that can determine whether your visible veins are caused by an underlying medical condition. A duplex ultrasound examination is a painless procedure that uses sound waves to see inside your vessels to detect potential damage. The procedure can also be used during treatment to ensure problematic veins are effectively eradicated.
Whether you choose to treat your spider or varicose veins for cosmetic or medical reasons, there are numerous treatment options available today. At Center for Vein Restoration, we offer the following treatment options:
-Laser Treatment – a non-invasive treatment to eliminate small, superficial spider veins
-Sclerotherapy – injectable procedure used for spider and smaller varicose veins
-EVLT – delivers laser energy into the affected vessel to seal it closed so it collapses and fades from view
-Venefit – works in a similar fashion to EVLT, but uses radiofrequency energy instead of laser energy
Spider and varicose veins can be more than unsightly, they can be painful as well. By diagnosing the reason for your varicose veins, we can effectively treat your condition and eliminate those unattractive, uncomfortable veins at the same time. Procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and involve little or no discomfort or downtime. To learn more, contact Center for Vein Restoration.