GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) Now that the weather is warmer, many of us are wearing shorts and skirts and the last thing we want to show off are ugly varicose veins. This is a serious medical issue that more half of the adults in our country deal with, so we brought in Dr. John Morris with Mercy Health Physician Partners Vascular Surgery to talk with us about it the topic.
What are vericose veins and who is normally affected by them?
Varicose veins are large, raised, swollen blood vessels that twist and turn. They usually develop in the legs and can be seen through the skin. Spider veins are smaller, red, purple, and blue vessels that also twist and turn. Spider veins are easily visible through the skin, as well. They are typically visible on the legs and face.
A number of factors predispose a person to varicose veins and spider veins. These include:
Occupations that involve a lot of standing, such as nurses, teachers, and factory workers
Hormonal influences of pregnancy, puberty, and menopause
The use of birth control pills
Postmenopausal hormonal replacement
A history of blood clots
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
Many people with varicose veins complain of pain, described as an aching or cramping in the legs. Other common symptoms include tiredness, restlessness, burning, throbbing, tingling, or heaviness in the legs. Pain from these veins is usually relieved by elevating the legs or by wearing support hose.
In women, symptoms may be worse during certain parts of the menstrual cycle or during pregnancy. Less common is swelling, ulcers and a darkening of the skin, especially in the ankle region. Occasionally, varicose veins can form a painful blood clot with inflammation of the vein, a condition called thrombophlebitis
If left untreated, more severe symptoms or complications include:
A buildup of fluid and swelling in the leg.
Significant swelling and calf pain after sitting or standing for a long time.
Skin color changes around the ankles and lower legs.
Dry, stretched, swollen, itching, or scaling skin.
Superficial thrombophlebitis (when a blood clot and inflammation develop in a small vein near the surface of the skin).
Open sores (ulcerations).
Bleeding and/or bruising after a minor injury.
What treatment options are available for people with varicose veins?
The most conservative approach is simply to wear properly-fitting support hose, especially when the veins cause painful or uncomfortable symptoms. Lifestyle changes are also important – good skin hygiene, weight loss (if needed), and walking can help treat varicose veins and spider veins. Laser treatment is a procedure in which pulses of laser light are delivered inside the vein, which causes the vein to collapse. The procedure is done as an outpatient under local anesthesia.
Surgery is generally used to treat large varicose veins. Techniques include ligation (tying off of a vein) and stripping (removal of a long segment of vein). Another procedure, ambulatory phlebectomy, allows for the removal of large surface veins through very small incisions that do not need stitches. Surgery may be performed using local, spinal, or general anesthesia. Most patients return home the same day as the procedure.