Ahhh, sandals and bare legs, shorts and skirts….. all great options when the weather is warm. Perhaps you long to flaunt a shorter hemline but unsightly leg veins are holding you back. It’s a common problem. At least 1/2 the U.S. adult population is troubled by some variation of spider and/or varicose veins. But wait! Before you give up and cover up, take heart. Solutions do exist.
Varicose veins, those twisty enlarged veins near the surface of the skin, are caused by weakened valves and veins in your legs. One-way valves normally keep blood flowing from your legs up toward your heart. When these valves fail, blood collects in your legs and pressure builds up. The result is large, raised, swollen blood vessels that twist and turn….. and unfortunately may dictate your fashion choices. Spider veins are smaller, red, purple and blue vessels that also twist and turn. They’re readily visible through the skin as well.
Several factors can predispose a person to varicose and spider veins. Heredity is one, as the condition tends to run in families. Aging also increases your risk as does being pregnant or overweight. Do you have a job that has you standing on your feet for long periods of time? That too, can contribute to their occurrence. Neither variety are usually a sign of anything serious, although occasionally varicose veins can lead to other problems requiring medical intervention. Milder symptoms can include heaviness, burning, aching and tiredness in your legs although many people experience no symptoms at all aside from physical appearance.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
The most common treatment option is sclerotherapy, an injection technique requiring 2-3 outpatient sessions spaced 6-8 weeks apart. At SBC we use Asclera® (polidocanol) as a sclerosing agent. It’s injected into the veins, eventually causing them to reduce in size or to shut down completely. This treatment is intended for patients with small spider veins or with varicose veins measuring up to 3mm in diameter. A slight pricking sensation may be experienced when the small needle is inserted but it’s usually well tolerated and numbing cream can be applied to ease the process.
Now that laser therapy is working wonders on so many skin-related conditions these days, it’s no surprise inroads have been made to eliminate varicose and spider veins in the same way. Surface laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments have met with some success. These devices use heat energy to selectively damage or destroy abnormal veins.
Meanwhile a more invasive procedure known as endovenous laser treatment delivers pulses of light as well. These ultimately cause the vein to collapse. The difference is they come courtesy of a small laser fiber that is inserted into the vein.
During radiofrequency occlusion a small catheter is inserted into the vein. It delivers radiofrequency energy to the vein wall, causing it to heat, collapse and seal shut.
Lifestyle changes can prevent varicose and spider veins from getting worse. It’s helpful to get plenty of exercise and to avoid long periods of either sitting or standing. Elevating your legs while at rest is beneficial too. And if the idea of wearing compression stockings isn’t in sync with your image of a bare-legged summer, please know they really do improve circulation. Stay cool but don’t let fashion dictate what’s best for you this summer…. and in the long run.