Varicose veins are a very common occurrence as roughly 50 percent of the women in the United States and about 40 percent of the men will suffer from some sort of vein problem. Typically about half of the people who are 50 years of age and older will be affected by varicose veins. Veins in the body are vessels which carry nutrients and oxygen to the body cells via the blood. The veins also carry various types of waste products such as carbon dioxide away from the cells so that the cells do not become cluttered. Varicose veins can develop if steady blood flow is interrupted. This interruption can cause blood to pool in small amounts in the veins and the veins enlarge in response.
Common Treatment Options
There are ways to effectively treat varicose veins through lifestyle changes or medical treatment options. The goal is to relieve the symptoms, prevent complications from developing and improve appearance. Some simple lifestyle changes may be appropriate if there are no complications or if the condition is mild.
Sclerotherapy is one of the most common medical treatments for spider and varicose veins. A doctor injects a liquid chemical directly into the vein. This will cause the vein walls to swell and stick together thus sealing them shut. When the flow of blood is stopped in this manner, the vein will soon turn to scar tissue and over a short period of time its appearance will fade. Depending on the severity of the veins, treatment may need to be repeated. This is a very effective treatment when it is done correctly.
For varicose veins that are not visible on the surface of the skin ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy may be used. It simply uses an ultrasound image to guide the needle to the correct position. This procedure may be used after endovenous techniques if the veins recur.
Laser Vein treatments can be used to effectively treat small varicose veins or spider veins. The procedure uses a strong burst of light that is sent through the skin to the vein. The vein will slowly fade and gradually disappear. This procedure cannot be used on some skin types safely. This procedure can be painful mostly because of the heat generated by the laser. These treatments are usually repeated from 2 to 5 times to remove spider veins. Each laser vein treatment only last about 15 or 20 minutes. There are no limitations on activities and individuals can continue normal activity levels immediately following treatments.
Endovenous techniques treat deeper veins in the legs, the saphenous veins. The procedure can be completed in the doctor’s office and for the large part this method has replaced surgery for many patients suffering with severe cases. A catheter is placed in the vein and a probe placed through it. The probe heats the vein from the inside out which causes it to close off. Either radiofrequency or laser energy is used to seal the vein. There may be some bruising associated with the treatment but these will soon disappear. Healthy veins close to the closed vein will continue normal blood flow and the symptoms associated with the varicose vein will improve. Veins that may be connected should shrink after the treatment. If not, sclerotherapy or other techniques can be used.
Preventing Varicose Veins
There are some things that can be done to help reduce the chances of developing varicose and spider veins; or keep them from recurring. A regular exercise regimen will help improve circulation as well as leg and vein strength. Walking or running are both excellent choices. When sitting, remember to not cross the legs; and elevate the legs while resting. Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. While standing, weight should be shifted from leg to leg every few minutes. If it is a situation where one must sit for long periods of time take a short walk or move around about every half hour.
Avoid wearing tight clothing that may constrict blood flow to the waist, legs or groin areas. And do not wear high heels for a long period of time. Wearing shoes with lower heels can help increase blood flow in the veins and helps tone calf muscles.
Restrict the amount of salt consumed in the diet and include foods that are high in fiber. Fiber helps reduce constipation which can be a contributing factor to the development of varicose veins. Remember to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.