Treating Varicose and Spider Veins
According to Vascular Cures.org, as many as 25 million Americans suffer from varicose and spider veins, but new technology is changing how these problems are treated and improving the lives of millions of Americans.
Instead of painful, surgical stripping procedures, medical facilities are using two increasingly popular non-surgical approaches: radio waves to treat varicose veins and special injections for spider veins.
Varicose veins look like twisted, bulging cords in the legs and feet. They are often painful, unsightly and can cause serious health issues. Spider veins are smaller and closer to the skin surface. Frequently branching out like a tree or spider web, spider veins are commonly found on the legs and face.
Both varicose and spider veins are caused by weak or damaged veins, often referred to as chronic venous insufficiency or venous reflux disease. When varicose veins don’t work properly, it allows blood to pool in the legs instead of flowing back to the heart.
Not only do these veins look bad, they can cause ankle and leg swelling, aching legs, cramping, itching, burning and restless legs. Left untreated, they can lead to rashes, discoloration, inflamed veins, ulcers on the legs, and – with varicose veins – even deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.
Our clinic uses a procedure called VNUS® RF (radiofrequency) Ablation, which uses electrical energy in the form of radio waves to seal off the veins that are not working properly. Most patients have immediate relief of symptoms and can return to work and most routine activities within a day or two. Laser vein treatments are also an option.
For spider veins, a procedure called injection sclerotherapy is used. Sclerotherapy is a chemical injection process is used to treat veins at an early stage, before they worsen, or in conjunction with VNUS ablation for more advanced vein problems. This non-surgical procedure irritates the inside lining of problem veins, causing them to collapse and gradually disappear.
While health insurance does not cover vein treatments for purely cosmetic reasons, most varicose vein treatments are covered by insurance, and even spider vein treatments are covered when venous insufficiency disease is the underlying cause of the problem. The good news is that most vein treatment facilities offer ultrasound screening to determine if medical treatment is necessary.
Several factors can increase the risk of developing varicose or spider veins:
- Age – As you age, the valves in your veins weaken and don’t work as well.
- Genetics – About 50 percent of people who have varicose veins have a family member that suffers from them, too.
- Obesity – Carrying extra weight puts extra pressure on your veins that over time can lead to the formation of varicose and spider veins.
- Lack of movement – Sitting or standing for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart.
- Occupations that involve a lot of standing, such as nursing, hair stylist, teaching and factory work.
- Pregnancy – During pregnancy, there is an increase in circulating hormones. There is also a significant increase in the amount of blood in a woman’s body, which can put additional pressure on the veins.
- Postmenopausal hormonal replacement.
- A history of blood clots.
- Exposure to environmental factors such as excessive sun or cold, or other injury to the skin.
Knowing the risk factors and symptoms associated with vein problems can help people make better decisions about their vein health. If you and your health care provider determine that treatment is the best course of action, technological advancements make the treatment of varicose and spider veins a faster, less-costly, and non-invasive alternative to traditional surgery.
Stephen Ward, M.D.
Dr. Stephen Ward, born in Georgia, graduated from the medical college of Georgia in 1988. He completed his residency in Diagnostic Radiology at the Medical College of Georgia in 1993. He is certified with The American Board of Radiology. He has been a member of Northern Arizona Radiology since 1993.