Varicose veins are enlarged veins that have a gnarled appearance. They often appear dark blue or purple in color and are visible through the skin. Varicose veins typically occur in the legs and feet due to pressure from standing and walking. The condition is common in older individuals and develops in women more often than men. Although varicose veins are unsightly, they are not usually harmful. However, they may cause mild pain and discomfort. In some cases, they may lead to other serious conditions such as circulatory problems.
Varicose Vein Diagnosis
Your physician will perform a physical examination of your legs in order to make a proper diagnosis. The physician will check your legs for signs of swelling. He will ask you to describe any pain or discomfort you are experiencing. Your physician may recommend diagnostic tests such as a Doppler ultrasound to get a better look at the veins and to see if there is any blockage. A handheld device will be passed over the affected area. A computer will convert the sound waves into a picture that will display the flow of blood in the arteries and veins. Your physician may recommend that you see a vascular specialist (a doctor that specializes in blood vessel conditions).
Varicose Vein Treatment
Treatment for mild to moderate varicose veins usually includes self-care to keep the condition from worsening. Your doctor may recommend wearing compression stockings. These stockings put pressure on the legs which helps the blood to move more efficiently through the veins.
Treatment for More Serious Varicose Veins
In some instances, varicose veins may require further treatment. Treatments may include sclerotherapy which is a procedure that involves injecting a solution into small veins which closes them thereby causing the veins to fade. The same procedure can be done with a foam solution to close larger veins.
Laser surgery is another alternative for closing varicose veins. In this procedure, strong bursts of laser light are focused on the affected veins. Laser treatments need to be repeated for 2 to 5 sessions lasting 15 to 20 minutes each session. It is important to understand that not everyone is a candidate for laser surgery so speak to your physician to see if it is an option for you. Laser therapy usually is not effective for larger veins.
Large veins may be treated with endovenous techniques. In this procedure, a small tube with a probe is placed into the vein. The probe heats the vein and closes it off re-routing blood flow to the veins around the affected vein.
Ligation and vein stripping is a surgical procedure used to treat large veins. It involves tying off the vein and removing it through surgical incisions.
Preparing for Your Varicose Vein Appointment
There are no special preparations to make before seeing your doctor. However, you should have a list of your symptoms, any medications you may be taking and a history of family illnesses.
Lifestyle Changes After Varicose Vein Treatment
If your varicose veins are mild to moderate your physician may suggest some lifestyle changes to prevent the condition from worsening. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Avoid crossing your legs since this position can affect circulation. Elevate your legs periodically to increase circulation. Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes. Walking increases blood circulation so speak to your physician about developing a regular exercise routine that is appropriate for you.