What are the health risks of varicose veins?

With the aging of the baby boomers, an increasing concern is the appearance of varicose veins.  These abnormal blood vessels are primarily a cosmetic issue for some people.  However, they can also present some significant health concerns.  Understanding more about them is important for patients who are pondering treatment options.

Varicose Vein Health Problems

Varicose vessels have become increasingly common.  Almost everyone has encountered someone who has complained about them.  Roughly 40 million U.S. adults have these unwanted veins, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.  By age 60, as many as 40 percent of males and 70 percent of females suffer from them.

A varicose vein develops because of an injury or malfunction of a valve in the vessel.  This is often related to aging.  When the valve cannot close properly, blood traveling from the extremities to the heart succumbs to gravity and falls backward.  As it pools, it can stretch the vein’s walls and eventually result in a varicose vessel.

These blue or purple veins have a bulging and gnarled appearance.  They most commonly develop in the legs or the feet.  The Mayo Clinic notes that they are capable of causing far more serious problems that the cosmetic issues associated with them.

One common complaint is pain that worsens after standing or sitting for an extended period.  Some patients experience a sensation of heaviness or aching in the legs, itching around one or more veins, bleeding from a vessel, discolored skin, and/or inflammation around the ankle.  Burning, muscle cramps, swelling, and throbbing in the lower legs are also typical symptoms.

Without effective vein treatments, patients might suffer a number of significant health complications:

  • Rash on the calves and ankles
  • Increasing swelling and discomfort
  • Skin ulcers
  • Bleeding from a vein
  • Thrombophlebitis (blood clot in a vein)

Varicose Vein Treatments

Varicose vein sufferers now have more treatment options than ever.  Conservative measures such as shedding extra pounds and wearing compression stockings are helpful for managing some symptoms.  When health concerns escalate, patients have a number of treatment options that will close or remove targeted vessels.  Among the most common are these:

  • Sclerotherapy to close spider veins and small varicose vessels by injecting a special substance called a sclerosant
  • Microphlectomy for removing abnormal vessels through tiny skin incisions
  • ClosureFast™ to administer heat to a vein via radiofrequency energy through a catheter
  • Venaseal™ for closing veins with a medical adhesive
  • Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) to heal and close vessels with laser technology

Vein specialists sometimes combine these treatments for optimal results.  Each of these same-day therapies is convenient and allows patients to return quickly to their normal daily activities.  However, no vein treatments can prevent the development of new varicose vessels.  For this reason, some patients opt to return periodically for additional sessions.

Posted in: Vein Treatment

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