Varicose Veins More Than Just Ugly Leg Veins
At least 25 million Americans have varicose veins in their legs and many people also have other problems associated with malfunctioning veins like leg swelling. Vein problems are mostly hereditary and affect women more than men.
The underlying cause is abnormal blood flow or bi-directional (to-and-fro) blood flow in leg veins. Blood circulation to the legs is provided by arteries that pump blood “in” and veins that drain blood “out” of the legs. It isn't easy for veins to do this because this requires the blood to flow up the legs and toward the heart and lungs to be re-oxygenated. Veins have thin walls and contain valves, staggered every few inches, to regulate this upward blood flow. When these tissue-paper thin valves fail, blood flows up the legs then falls back down into the legs and feet. As this constantly happens, veins enlarge with “too much” blood and branches bulge causing symptoms.
It is typical for people with varicose veins to notice them becoming more prominent and increase in number over the years. While these veins are often unattractive and force people to hide their legs, they can cause other problems over time. Other symptoms include leg swelling, skin darkening and thickening, leg pain mostly at the end of the day, itching, and restless legs at night.
In the most severe cases, prolonged and untreated venous disease produces thickened, dark skin on the legs and open wounds that don't heal. Abnormal venous flow with these symptoms is rarely associated with blood “clots” that many patients and their doctors are worried about.
Finally, if other health care providers tell you that your varicose veins are just cosmetic, schedule an appointment with a trained and experienced vein or vascular physician so that appropriate and informed treatment can begin. The most common procedure performed is venous closure or heat (thermal) ablation of the superficial veins with the abnormal blood flow. Other treatment includes vein removal or injection of surface varicose and spider veins.
Insurance coverage is available for these treatments, but some plans have strict guidelines that limit the size of the veins to be treated or the number of treatment sessions.
An informed venous professional can guide you through this process so seek treatment sooner rather than later to avoid the late skin complications.