What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are characterized by veins that appear twisted and bulging underneath the skin surface and are usually the result of a failure of the Great Saphenous Vein or Lesser saphenous veins and/or their branches but also due to narrowing of the veins above the groin in the pelvic area [called iliac or femoral veins], which are located deep inside the thighs or calves. Those veins are only visible with the aid of an ultrasound device the majority of the time. Varicose veins can also be found in the abdominal area leading to Pelvic Congestion Syndrome. Therefore, all patients with bulging superficial varicose veins should receive an ultrasound exam before treatment and diagnosis. In a healthy vein, blood flow occurs in one direction. However, the blood in the valves of the ineffective saphenous veins may leak and travel backwards from the veins in the thigh. This blood then pools inside the veins of the calf. The backwards blood flow causes veins to stretch, swell, and twist. If left untreated, these varicose veins may progress and cause threatening blood clots or large ulcers on the legs and ankles. A small percentage of these blood clots can migrate through the vein to the deep venous system where they become dangerous and can even lead to a pulmonary embolism, which can cause death. Varicose veins can cause also restless legs. Varicose veins can be caused by heredity, but also factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, jobs that require excessive standing or sitting, DVT, and pregnancy.
While most people who experience varicose may be asymptomatic, this vascular condition can also cause the following symptoms; varicose veins, painful, tired or fatigued legs, heaviness, swelling, itching, cramping, superficial phlebitis, edema, reddening of skin, leg ulceration and sores, lipodermatosclerosis, rash, or discoloration of the skin as well as bleeding.
How are Varicose Veins Treated?
Treatment depends on the condition, location, and severity of varicose veins. Treatments include:
- Conservative Treatment, done through the use of compression stockings and involving potential lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to slow the advance of vascular disease.
- Conventional and ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, where a medical solution is injected into affected veins, causing them to clot and be removed naturally by the body.
- Endovenous ablation – using ultrasound technology, a small catheter is inserted into the vein, where it is permanently sealed off using either laser or radiofrequency energy or newer technologies like glue ,foam, catheter vein irritation.
- Ambulatory Phlebectomy is used to remove large varicose veins near the skin surface, small surgical incisions are made to remove affected veins.
- Closing or eliminating veins does not usually affect vein circulation adversely since the body finds a way to redirect flow via the normal veins