Varicose Veins Overview of Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment Options
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Varicose Veins Overview of Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Overview of diagnosis and treatment of varicose veins

What are Varicose Veins? Should I be Concerned About Varicose Veins?

Have you noticed some large bulging ropelike and knotty looking veins in your legs? If you have, chances are they are varicose veins. Varicose veins are not spider veins. Spider veins are more cosmetic in nature and are not often associated with a serious medical problem. Varicose veins affect more women than men and by the age of 50 it is estimated that 40% of women and 20% of men have varicose veins.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is largely through a simple visual examination. Your doctor may feel around for deeper knotted or engorged veins that are not readily visible. In order to determine the extent of the problem however, your doctor may do an ultrasound to find out if there are any actual blockages or blood clots in your veins.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Veins are the part of the vascular system that takes blood back to the heart. Since the blood has to travel upward contrary to gravity the veins have little leaflet valves that prevent the blood from traveling back downward. As the leg muscles pump the blood through the veins the little flap-like valves open with the blood being pushed through them and then flap back closed. There are a number of factors that might cause a valve to malfunction: an enlarged vein, a weak vein, a hereditary condition or previous or current blood clots. All of these things will contribute to the flap of the leaflet valve not closing properly. This malfunction will allow blood to pool into a segment of the vein causing it to become engorged and distended.

What Happens if Left Untreated?

If left untreated, varicose veins may cause uncomfortable aching in your legs, leg cramps, swelling, itchy legs and restless legs. Serious and dangerous blood clots may form in deeper veins (deep vein thrombosis). Your ability to walk or stand for long periods of time will be diminished affecting your quality of life or ability to work. As varicose veins worsen, skin ulcers may appear above the ankle that are persistent and difficult to heal.

Treatment

Treatment of varicose veins will be determined by the severity of the condition. A common approach is sclerotherapy in which a solution is injected into the varicose vein to collapse it. Other methods are sometimes used to collapse or close veins, including thermal ablation and laser surgery. The outcome of these procedures are that the vein is no longer useable and blood will find a new pathway through healthier veins.

For more serious or complicated conditions, the doctor may choose to remove the varicose veins in a procedure called vein stripping. Small incisions are made and the long veins are pulled out.

Depending on the individual a doctor may choose a combination of procedures to treat varicose veins. Man procedures are done on an outpatient basis.

After surgery a patient may receive lifestyle counseling along with other physical therapies and exercises. 

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Comments (5)

Excellent reading...very informative, Thanks Judith for posting.voted up

my aunt had varicose veins

I had some schlerotherapy done on mine but it came back. It is the payback I get for wearing those killer heels.Great information here

Dr. Lowell Kabnick

There is actually some misleading information in here. Surgical vein stripping is almost never performed anymore, and the description of the small incisions where the vein is pulled out is actually describing phlebectomy rather than vein stripping. Phlebectomy is still a minimally invasive adjunctive procedure performed often along with endovenous laser surgery or radiofrequency ablation. Sclerotherapy is typically used for smaller, spider veins. Also, spider veins can be an early symptom of venous reflux disease, the underlying factor in varicose veins and venous ulcers. A proper ultrasound examination can determine the amount of refulx and therefore will determine your best course of action.

Thank you for your valuable feedback I did mention the ultrasound procedure in my first section. I tweeked the article and hopefully covered the points regarding the issue of schlerotherapy used mainly for spider veins and also corrected the terminology for vein stripping to phlebectomy. I see on a couple other medical sites that the procedures (stripping and phlebectomy) both remove the vein but stripping seems not to be the preferred method. The website Veindirectory.org http://www.veindirectory.org/glossary/2011/3/what_is_ambulatory_phlebectomy_and_how_does_it_treat_varicose_veins.html comments that with phlebectomy there are fewer complications, smaller incisions and that it only requires local anesthesia rather than the general anesthesia required by vein stripping. Again, your feedback is very much appreciated.

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