Varicose and Spider Veins

Treatment for Varicose and Spider Veins

Treatment for Varicose and Spider Veins
Movement of blood through our veins is something we take for granted most of the time. When veins become damaged or are weak, we become more aware of blood flow (or lack of it) because varicose and spider veins form, usually in the legs. Blood stalls or is sluggish in these veins and they become visible on the surface of the skin.

One out of 10 people is affected by the conditions--80% are women. The cause of varicose and spider veins is unclear. Heredity and pregnancy, however, are contributing factors, as are obesity and lack of exercise.

How Do Varicose and Spider Veins Differ?
Both kinds of veins are the result of impeded blood flow. Other veins take on the workload of the damaged veins to keep blood flowing. Varicose and spider veins each have distinct characteristics.

Varicose Veins

Veins that become permanently distended and protrude are called varicose veins. Usually, but not always, they appear bluish, swollen and stretched out on the surface of the skin. The valves in these veins do not function properly, or the walls of the vein are flaccid and blood pools in them

Although varicose veins generally aren't serious, they can cause discomfort including swelling, throbbing, heaviness and night cramps. They may pose a greater health risk when blood clots, bleeding and ulcers occur and you should contact your doctor.

Spider Veins

When capillaries under the skin break they are called spider veins. They appear on the skin as a purple, red or bluish web. The health risk of spider veins is minimal, mostly confined to aching and itching. If they appear on ankles and around the knees, they are often a symptom of varicose veins, which may or may not appear on the leg surface.

Treatment Options

Doctors use several treatments depending on the veins.

  • Laser therapy eliminates spider veins with short, intense bursts of laser light beamed onto the skin.
  • Sclerotherapy is a treatment for spider and varicose veins. A solution injected into a vein acts as an irritant to the walls. The vein becomes inflamed and sticky. Then the walls collapse together and heal closed.
  • Stripping is a same-day surgical procedure for more prominent varicose veins. The affected veins are removed through small incisions and their connections to the deeper veins are severed.

Follow-up Treatment
Varicose veins that have been treated must be monitored to ensure they don't return. The younger a person is when he or she undergoes treatment, the greater the possibility of other varicosities developing.

Self-care is important before and after treatment.

  • Wear compression stockings to apply pressure to the lower leg to reverse the blood flow.
  • Swim, walk or climb stairs to engage the calf muscles to pump blood to the heart.
  • Elevate the legs periodically to help relieve aching.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don't sit or stand for prolonged periods of time.
  • Eat a diet high in fiber to promote regularity.
  • Don't cross your legs at the knees when sitting.

For more information about what can be done about varicose veins, contact your physician.

Published: March 20, 2001
Source: Inform News Service 2000