Your circulatory system helps to transport blood and nutrients to every inch of your body. Your arteries carry blood away from the heart while veins direct it back towards the heart to reoxygenate and repeat. The blood in your legs can travel upwards and against gravity due to valves in the veins that prevent backflow. In vein disease, the valves don’t close properly and therefore, blood can flow backwards and begin to pool in certain areas.
Since blood flow in the veins work against gravity, they need support from surrounding muscles to efficiently travel. When something goes wrong with your veins—varicose veins, spider veins, venous insufficiency, etc.—your body responds. Damage to your veins or valves can occur in many ways—from small to large problems. However, vein disease is common and affects more than 1 in 3 Americans every year. To avoid acute complications or degenerating problems, treating varicose veins early is essential. This drastically reduces the chance of vein disease progressing into serious issues like blood clots, spontaneous venous rupture, and deep vein thrombosis.
Understanding Vein Disease—Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Vein disease is a progressive condition that develops slowly over time. Many people don’t realize that they’re affected by vein disease until years later. The gradual development can cause symptoms to go unrecognized or even be mistaken for common aches and pains. However, vein problems can cause a lot of discomfort and are more dangerous than many people realize.
When left untreated, vein disease can proliferate into significant complications like a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. To stay healthy and avoid complications, it’s important to gain a better understanding of vein disease and recognize any early signs or symptoms. Two of the most common aspects of vein disease are varicose veins and spider veins.
Varicose veins are veins that appear to be twisted and enlarged, often creating a bulging appearance on the skin. They can appear anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the legs.
While many people see varicose veins primarily as a cosmetic concern, they’re more than that. Varicose veins are a sign that the valves in your veins are weak, damaged, and not working properly.
This can lead to a number of symptoms that range from mild to severe. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Veins that appear raised or purple
- Burning or tingling in the legs
Varicose veins can affect anyone, but there are a few things that can increase your risk. If you are overweight or obese, your body works harder to circulate blood throughout your body, which can strain your veins and arteries. Similarly, if you’re pregnant, older, or regularly stand for prolonged periods of time, you’re at a higher risk of developing varicose veins. If you notice any signs of varicose veins or experience any of the above symptoms, seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid developing more serious problems and complications.
Spider veins don’t bulge from the skin; instead, they appear as small red or purple blood vessels that branch out on the surface of the skin.
This can occur from a lack of proper circulation and when blood is stagnant for too long. Spider veins occur most often around the legs, but they can appear anywhere on the body, including the face.
Spider veins are often more noticeable and darker in appearance than varicose veins due to the proximity to the surface of the skin. Some of the symptoms of spider veins include:
- Veins in a sunburst or spider web pattern
- Thin, dilated blood vessels that look like hair
Although uncommon, spider veins can also cause pain. The larger the spider vein or the more surface area it covers, the more likely that pain, throbbing, or burning will occur.
Treatment Options for Vein Disease
Treating vein disease is vital in order to avoid critical complications. The sooner you seek treatment, the better. The first step is undergoing a consultation with the physicians at Valley Heart Associates. This allows us to get a better idea of the type and severity of vein disease you’re suffering from.
During this consultation, your medical practitioner will work to create a personalized treatment plan. Some options for minor problems include compression hose and lifestyle changes, while other instances of vein disease may require additional procedures. Two of the most common treatments for vein disease include radiofrequency ablation therapy (RF) and sclerotherapy.
Radiofrequency Ablation Therapy (RF)
Radiofrequency ablation therapy is a minimally invasive treatment that’s commonly used for varicose veins. RF uses targeted radiofrequency heat waves to purposefully damage tissue that closes the affected vein. Once closed, the vein will reabsorb into the body and blood flow is automatically redirected into a healthy vein. It’s performed as a simple, 45 minute outpatient procedure and only requires local anesthesia. RF helps to relieve symptoms of vein disease and offers minimal downtime for patients. It results in little to no scarring, and you can return to normal activity immediately following your treatment.
Sclerotherapy is another easy outpatient procedure that’s used to treat vein disease. It involves injecting the affected area with a sclerosing solution, which causes blood vessels to shrink and reabsorb into the body. The reabsorption process begins immediately, and the appearance of varicose veins or spider veins gradually fades. Similar to RF, sclerotherapy is quick and results in no downtime. There is little to no scarring, and it requires no open surgery.
If you’re suffering from any type of vein disease, or experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, seek out a qualified medical professional like the ones at Valley Heart Associates today. Veins need to work properly to keep you healthy and free of serious complications, so don’t delay. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or speak with one of our experienced team members at 480-656-5711.