There are two types of veins in legs. Deep within the leg muscles are the deep veins that carry the majority of the blood back to the heart. Important, large deep veins in the leg include: common femoral vein, femoral vein, profunda femoris vein, popliteal vein, and calf veins. These deep veins return nearly all of the blood from lower extremities. Superficial veins, on the other hand, are located in the subcutaneous tissue of the skin. In the medical world, “superficial” means shallow or near the skin as opposed to deep within the body’s musculature. Superficial veins do not receive much assistance from muscle contraction to transport blood; rather, superficial veins use their one-way valves to return the blood. The main superficial veins in the leg include: great saphenous vein (GSV) and small saphenous vein (SSV). Varicose veins are superficial. Varicose veins are part of the blood vessels that return blood from the legs to the heart.
Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that bulge above the skin’s surface. Varicose veins occur when blood pools in the legs creating an abnormally dilated vein. Varicose veins can be benign or they can indicate an underlying disease. Spider veins, also called telangiectasias, are clusters of very small blood vessels near the surface of the skin, and they have an appearance of a spiderweb. Spider veins do not typically manifest as a symptom of an underlying disease.
Both spider veins and varicose veins area caused by abnormal structures and functions within blood vessels. Sometimes, when veins carry blood back to the heart from other parts of the body, vein valves become defective and result in a backflow of blood in the veins. This backflow causes blood to pool up within the vein, increase the amount of pressure within the vein, and ultimately the vein may develop an enlarged blood vessel known as spider veins and varicose veins.
Risk Factors for Varicose Veins
It is very common for adults to have varicose veins; it’s even more common for women to develop varicose veins. Increasing age puts a person at a greater risk for developing varicose veins. Also, if a person sits or stands for an extended period of time, this pressure can increase the likelihood of developing varicose veins. Other risk factors for developing varicose veins include: obesity, pregnancy, hormone therapy, prior vein surgery, a history of blood clots, injury, birth control pills, and family history of varicose veins.
Lifestyle Change Can Improve Varicose Veins
Investing in compression socks can greatly aid in the reduction of varicose vein appearance. These socks can be worn at home or at work to alleviate symptoms of varicose veins in the legs. Compression socks improve blood circulation in the legs by increasing pressure.
Regular exercise and weight loss can reduce the appearance of varicose veins. It’s important to refrain from sitting or standing in place for extended periods of time; stay moving! When sitting, elevate the legs to avoid swelling and improve blood circulation.
Sclerotherapy is a specialized medical treatment commonly performed to improve the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins. Sclerotherapy is effective in removing varicose veins and spider veins. Sclerotherapy is a procedure done for cosmetic reasons and can be performed in a primary care office by a trained physician or medical professional. The medical professional will inject a liquid solution into the varicose or spider vein that causes the enlarged or abnormal vein to collapse and eventually disappear. This treatment may require multiple sessions before the veins completely disappear; the time frame for recovery and disappearance of the varicose or spider vein depends on the size and type of abnormality of the vein.
Laser therapy is another popular treatment for varicose veins and spider veins that can also be conducted in a primary care doctor’s office. Laser therapy consists of a strong, focused light that heats and ultimately destroys the enlarged vein. Endovenous laser treatment is surgical procedure that involves the use of a laser light through a thin fiber that is inserted into the abnormal vein. The insertion of this fiber and use of laser light forces the vein to contract and thus eliminates the abnormally enlarged vein. This procedure is highly effective and is completed as an out-patient procedure.
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment option for varicose veins. In this procedure, a catheter is inserted into the abnormal vein and a radiofrequency energy heats the vein causing it to contract and eliminate the bulging appearance of the varicose vein.
Surgery is another treatment option for improving varicose veins that are larger and more severe. Discuss this option thoroughly with a healthcare provider to determine optimal treatment procedures. One surgical option to remove varicose veins is vein ligation and stripping; this is when the abnormal veins are cut, tied off, and surgically removed through small incisions in the skin. Surgical procedures are highly successful in improving the symptoms and appearance of varicose veins.
Unfortunately, not all varicose veins are preventable – genetics and lifestyle factors play a large role in whether or not a person will develop varicose veins. However, there are a few important measures a person can take to reduce the likelihood of developing varicose veins, including:
-healthy weight maintenance
-avoidance of prolonged sitting or standing
-avoidance of crossing legs while sitting
-elevating legs while resting
-wearing compression socks