Veins and arteries, while both part of the circulatory system, function quite differently from each other. Arteries bring oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the extremities and can be thought of like a tube or hose. Veins, unlike arteries, have one-way valves and channel oxygen-depleted blood back toward the heart. If the valves of the veins don’t function well, blood doesn’t flow efficiently. The veins become enlarged because they are congested with blood. These enlarged veins are commonly called varicose veins. Spider veins are small red, blue or purple veins on the surface of the skin while varicose veins are larger distended veins that are located somewhat deeper than spider veins yet are visible as knots or ropes bulging from the surface of your leg.
These enlarged veins are abnormal and do not transport the blood back up to the heart efficiently. They are non-essential veins in the circulatory system and can be eliminated without causing problems, which will in turn, improve the overall circulation of blood in your body.
Symptoms, often made worse by prolonged standing, include:
- Feelings of fatigue or “heaviness”
- Aching or throbbing of legs
- Burning or itching around varicosities
- Cramping, and restlessness of the legs
- Leg swelling
- Non-healing ulcers on ankles or lower legs
- Coagulation of blood in diseased veins which can cause DVT or potentially stroke in predisposed individuals
Sometimes patients suffer the symptoms of venous insufficiency without the dramatic visual effects of severe varicose veins. In these instances a thorough physical examination and patient history are coupled with ultrasound diagnostic studies performed by our highly qualified technicians to determine the cause and severity of the patient’s medical condition. Considering all of the information gathered in these visits, Dr. Robbins is able to address both the medical and cosmetic venous conditions as suffered by the patient.
WHAT CAUSES VARICOSE VEINS?
HEREDITY – There is a significant relationship between heredity and the development of varicose and “spider” veins. If your mother or father has the condition there it is likely that you will develop these abnormal veins.
AGE – The development of varicose and “spider” veins can occur at any age but usually occurs between the ages of 18 and 35 years, peaking between 50 and 60 years of age.
GENDER – Females are four times more likely than males to suffer from troublesome veins.
PREGNANCY – During pregnancy varicose veins may form but may also disappear shortly after the delivery of the baby. The incidence of varicose veins during pregnancy is approximately 8 – 20%. Two different effects occur during pregnancy. First, the enlarged uterus tends to compress or obstruct veins in the pelvic area. This causes the veins in the leg to become distended and noticeable. Second, hormone changes during pregnancy can affect the vein wall causing distention and valve damage.
LIFESTYLE/OCCUPATION – People who are obligated to have periods of prolonged sitting or standing in their daily activities have an increased risk of developing varicose veins.
DO MY VEINS REQIRE TREATMENT?
The most commonly asked questions are: “Do my veins require treatment?” and “What treatment is best?”. Veins that cause pain or other symptoms are prime candidates for treatment. There are two general treatment options: conservative measures, such as compression stockings and leg elevation, and corrective measures such as Endovenous Laser and Radio Frequency Ablation, Ambulatory Microphlebectomy, Surface Laser treatments, Sclerotherapy, or rarely, surgery. In some cases, a combination of treatment methods works best for comprehensive results. The only way to assure your optimum venous health is to consult with your physician. Your quality of life and overall vascular/venous health can be dramatically improved with proper evaluation, planning and treatment by a trained and experienced vein specialist.