Varicose veins with summer on the way

June 6, 2013 Brian C. Lange, M.D.

Ah, spring in the Puget Sound region. Visions of warm days, shorts and skirts and being self-conscious about varicose veins may be dancing in your head. Is there anything you can do?

Some of us wear shorts and skirts anyway, ignoring furtive glances or curious comments, while others just hide their veins under hose or pants. A third option is available: treatment.

Whether you’ve got little red, flat spider veins, big, blue bulging varicose veins, or something in between, you’ve got the same problem – just of a different magnitude. Spider veins and varicose veins occur in the legs when the one-way valves in the blood vessels no longer work right, which lets blood collect in the veins instead of flowing back to the heart. This makes the veins widen, often becoming unsightly and uncomfortable. Most commonly varicose veins near the skin surface are caused by leaky valves in veins deeper in the leg. Untreated, varicose veins typically worsen over time.

To improve the appearance of your legs and, in some cases, make them feel better, your veins can be treated by collapsing (always in your provider’s office). Another option is removing them completely (usually in your provider’s office but sometimes requiring the operating room).

The collapsing techniques can be used to treat the entire spectrum of varicose veins.  Photocoagulation (light) and thermocoagulation (heat) work for spiders, but are generally more effective on the chest, neck, and face where the main cause is sun damage.  Sclerotherapy (injection) can be effective anywhere, but is particularly helpful in the legs where pressure from deeper within is the cause of the veins. Laser and radiofrequency catheter ablation is reserved for only the largest and straightest subcutaneous varicose veins. 

Whatever you decide, remember that an active, healthy lifestyle won’t prevent varicose veins, but it will diminish their impact. If you have questions or would like to schedule a consultation, call Swedish Vascular Surgery at 206-215-5921.

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