Varicose veins are dark blue, swollen and twisted veins visible through the skin. People with varicose veins describe having legs that feel heavy, tired, achy and painful. Symptoms may worsen after standing or sitting for long periods of time.
The treatment of varicose veins is important not only for aesthetic improvement, but also for pain relief and prevention of more serious conditions. The comprehensive Vein Center at The University of Kansas Health System offers state-of-the-art technologies and minimally invasive treatment options for both varicose veins and spider veins.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that have become distended or swollen and the valves that move blood to the heart cannot close properly and start to leak. Blood that should be pushed back to the heart leaks downward, pooling in the lower extremities of the body and causing the veins to bulge. People who sit or stand in one position for long periods of time, sit with their legs crossed or who do not exercise are prone to varicose veins.
Although varicose veins are not considered serious, in some cases varicose veins can signal a blockage in the deeper veins. This condition, called deep vein thrombosis, requires evaluation and possible treatment.
Varicose veins symptoms and risks
Signs of varicose veins and venous problems include:
- Aching or pain in the legs
- Appearance of blue or purple spider vein configurations under the skin
- Dramatic skin color changes
- Irritated or dry, thin skin
- Itching or burning
- Nighttime cramping
- Open sores
- Raised outline of overly curved veins visible under the skin
- Tired or heavy legs
There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing varicose veins:
- Family history
- Hormonal changes, such as puberty, pregnancy or birth control pills
- Increased age
- Prolonged standing/sitting
Other factors that increase the likelihood of varicose veins are leg injury, heavy lifting and lack of exercise.
Varicose veins diagnosis and screening
In most cases, varicose veins can be diagnosed on sight by your physician. However, additional testing may be necessary to determine the underlying cause and decide on the best course of treatment.
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Varicose veins treatment
People who are experiencing venous symptoms should schedule a consultation to determine whether they are suffering from varicose veins or venous ulcerations. The first treatment step is often compression therapy, in which a pressure of 35-40 mmHg is applied to prevent capillary secretion. This may take up to 5 months, but if there has not been a noticeable improvement in 3 months, you may be a candidate for different varicose vein procedures.
With a wide range of vein treatment procedures available, your physician may perform an ultrasound to help determine which approach will maximize effectiveness while limiting expense and recovery time for your condition.
The good news is vascular conditions are highly treatable and varicose vein treatments have gotten better. Several minimally invasive outpatient procedures have replaced complex surgical therapy known as ligation and stripping: