If you have vein problems, you may very well hear terms such as varicose veins, reticular veins, and spider veins, as well as telangiectasias. The terminology can be confusing, but the reality of the situation is that these names refer to very similar conditions. Here’s more information, courtesy of Dr. Charles Dietzek of the Vein and Vascular Institute of New Jersey.
Your body has two kinds of blood vessels – arteries and veins. Arteries move blood from the heart and the pressure in that part of the system is high enough to keep things moving. The veins, however, are at the tail end of the pressure gradient and must work against gravity. To help in the process, veins have small flaps of tissue called valves, that close between heartbeats to prevent back-flow of blood. If the veins stop working properly, you have venous insufficiency. The blood pools in veins and causes distention in the veins.
Sorting Out the Terms
Although all of these terms have something to do with venous insufficiency, there are some differences:
- Varicose veins – varicose veins, or varices, are simply distended veins. In practice, most doctors use that term to refer to the larger veins of the legs, although varices can occur in other areas of the body such as the esophagus.
- Spider veins – these are smaller veins, closer to the skin, and can occur on the legs as well as the arms and face.
- Reticular veins – these veins are even smaller than spider veins, into which they feed. They are located in the area between the top layer of skin and the thicker tissue and fat below, so they are readily visible.
- Telangiectasias – another term often used interchangeably with spider veins, these are distended capillaries.
Symptoms, Including Pain
Many people who have venous insufficiency have no symptoms other than the changes in the appearance of the veins. The veins may become twisted and distorted, bulge or be discolored red, blue, black or purple. However, it’s not uncommon to have aching and pain, especially in the legs, Dry skin and itching may also occur. In severe cases, the vein may ulcerate and erode through the skin. These venous stasis ulcers are a sign that treatment is urgently required.
Treatment of Venous Insufficiency
In mild cases, venous insufficiency can be treated conservatively. Special elastic stockings, resting with the feet elevated and weight loss for those who are overweight are usually the most frequent recommendations. Several minimally invasive procedures can be used as well. Sclerotherapy is used for reticular veins, spider veins , nd some smaller varicose veins. A special solution is injected into the vein with a very fine needle, which makes the vein scar closed. For varicose veins, another possible treatment is micro-phlebotomy, in which the vein is removed through small incisions (cuts) in the skin.
If you have vein problems, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Dr. Dietzek can make an assessment and recommend the most appropriate therapy for your condition. We can also answer any questions you might have.