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Did you know that 40% of women and 25% of men suffer from the physical and/or social discomfort of varicose veins, or that 1 out of 2 people over the age of 50 report having this condition? Thanks to emerging technology and advanced techniques, our Vein Center offers the highest level of patient care and best possible outcomes with fewer complications and less recovery time.
Over 40 million Americans suffer daily with painful, swollen legs as a result of venous disease. This condition is the result of faulty valves in the veins and is called venous insufficiency. In a healthy vein, there are one way valves that allow the blood to move toward the heart, but not away. In a diseased vein, these valves do not work properly, allowing the blood to fall downward in between heartbeats. This back and forth motion of blood leads to an increased venous blood pressure resulting in inflammation of the tissues around the vein. This inflammation can cause leg pain, swelling, bulging varicose veins, heaviness, restlessness, cramps, skin discoloration, numbness, tingling, ulcers, blood clots, and deep venous thrombosis (DVT). Left untreated, this condition only worsens over time.
Heredity is the number one risk factor for venous disease. If your parents had varicose veins, you have an 89% chance of developing them. Next to heredity is gender. Women, especially those that have had multiple pregnancies, are three times more likely than men to develop venous disorders. Additionally, professions that require long periods of sitting or standing, increase one’s risk for venous disease. Age is also a risk factor. While older people are at a higher risk for venous disease, it can start as early as childhood.
The treatment for this disorder is called endovenous thermal ablation. This is a minimally invasive procedure where a catheter is inserted into the diseased vein by way of a small (2-3 mm) incision. Heat is applied to the vein walls causing it to close. Your body then naturally re-routes the blood through other healthy veins. The procedure is done under local anesthetic and is covered by most insurance carriers, including Medicare. Patients walk out of the Vein Center and return to their normal activities the same day.
Spider veins are a result of dilated venous capillaries that fill with blood and become visible. These are not considered harmful and are often treated for cosmetic reasons. Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution into the spider vein, which causes the vein wall to seal shut, therefore stopping the blood flow. The vein will turn to scar tissue and fade away over a period of weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I know if I have vein disease?
Fortunately, most vein disease can be seen by looking at the size and color of the vein at the skin surface. In some cases, however, the diseased vein may be deeper in the body and not visible through the skin. As a result, paying close attention to other symptoms is important in diagnosing vein disease. Many patients with vein disease experience cramping, aching, burning, itching, soreness, or “tired” or “restless” legs, especially in the calf muscles. If you experience these symptoms, physicians and staff at the Vein Center can perform a simple test to determine whether you have vein disease.
- How common is vein disease?
Vein disease of the legs is a common medical condition. It’s estimated that half of all middle-aged adults in the United States are affected by unsightly and often painful varicose veins. Varicose veins affect between 15-25% of all adults, and approximately 50% of all people over age 50. Women are twice as likely as males to develop varicose veins and spider veins.
- What causes vein disease?
Heredity is the single greatest contributor to vein disease, as approximately 70% of all patients with varicose veins have parents with the same condition. Pregnancy, especially multiple pregnancies, is a contributing cause of vein disease. Other factors influencing vein disease are age, obesity and jobs that require long periods of standing. Additional factors may include a history of blood clots and conditions that increase pressure in the abdomen, such as tumors, constipation and tight garments, previous venous surgery, and exposure to ultraviolet rays.
- Can vein disease be prevented?
Generally no. If you have a family history of vein disease, there is nothing you can do to change your genes. Being overweight can accelerate the progression of vein disease, and long periods of standing can also add to the problem. Diet and footwear are generally believed to be irrelevant in the formation of vein disease.
- What is vein disease?
Veins are the blood vessels that return blood to the heart from the body. To overcome the force of gravity, inside the veins are one-way valves which open to allow blood flow to the heart, and close to prevent “reflux” of blood back toward the feet. When these valves fail to function, or if the vein is damaged so the valves do not completely close, blood can begin to pool in the vein and cause a variety of complications.
- What are the treatment options for vein disease?
Depending on the type and stage of vein disease, there are many different treatments. The Vein Center physician and staff will explain all of the options. The following are common treatments performed for vein disease:
For minor pain from varicose veins, a compression stocking may be beneficial. The compression stocking will assist the leg in the pumping of blood back to the heart. While the vein disease symptoms may be relieved, compression stockings will not make the varicose veins go away.
Used commonly for spider veins and small varicose veins, sclerotherapy involves injecting a small volume of a liquid into the diseased vein. The sclerosing liquid acts upon the lining of the vein to cause it to seal shut, eliminating the vein completely.
Sclerotherapy is quickly performed in a physician’s office and no anesthesia is required.
Historically, the only treatment for large varicose veins has been to surgically remove or ‘strip’ the vein from the body. Surgical stripping is done in an operating room under anesthesia and requires a considerable recovery period for the patient. More recently, a modified version of stripping known as ambulatory phlebotomy has grown in use. In this version of surgical stripping, multiple incisions are made to hook and remove the vein one portion at a time. More incisions are made than in standard vein stripping, but the damage to the leg and post-surgery recovery time are minimized.
Endovenous Ablation Therapy
In the last several years, the use of endovenous ablation has become an accepted alternative to surgical stripping to treat varicose veins. In endovenous ablation therapy, a thin fiber is inserted into the diseased vein, generally through a small puncture in the leg above where the visual symptoms appear. The physician then delivers energy (radiofrequency or laser) through the fiber which causes the vein to close as the fiber is gradually removed. Endovenous ablation therapy can be performed in a physician’s office in less than one hour, and the patient is encouraged to walk immediately following the procedure.
- Who should not be treated?
Patients should wait at least three months after pregnancy or major surgery before being treated for vein disease. Persons with deep vein thrombosis or incompetence, and patients who cannot ambulate for other reasons are not good candidates for treatment.
- If the vein is closed by the treatment, where does the blood go?
Because there are many veins in the leg, the blood that would have flowed through the closed vein simply flows through other healthy veins after the procedure. The loss of the diseased vein is not a problem for the circulatory system.
- What can happen if varicose veins aren’t treated?
Varicose veins generally worsen over time. Initially, slight pain and restlessness in the diseased leg will be felt. If untreated, this pain will increase and result in limitations in walking and cramps during sleeping. Eventually, varicose veins can lead to open sores on the foot, blood clots and tissue loss.
- What are the complications of vein treatment?
Fortunately, sclerotherapy and endovenous ablation therapy have rarely been associated with any serious complications when properly performed. Common minor complications of these procedures include bruising, mild itching, tingling, tenderness and tightness in the treated leg for up to two weeks after the treatment.