Tips and Treatments for Varicose Vein Pain

hiking in the sun
For millions of people suffering from varicose veins, new treatments and changing opinions are helping patients see “venous disease” as a treatable problem rather than a cosmetic issue they “just have to live with.” 
Roughly 11 million men and 22 million women are affected by varicose veins, which are irregularly dilated and tortuous veins. Although they can occur almost anywhere in the body, they are most frequently found in the legs. High pressure in veins (venous hypertension) caused by malfunctioning valves, gradually enlarges these thin-walled vessels. As they dilate, they elongate and become tortuous. Located close to the skin, varicose veins are visibly noted as bulges or lumps on the legs.

Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

The largest of these dilated, bulging veins are varicose veins. The abnormally high pressure is also transmitted into even the smallest of veins located next to and inside the skin. As these veins dilate, they become more visible, forming a network of blue veins commonly called “spider veins.”

WHAT SYMPTOMS OCCUR?

When venous pressure increases, symptoms of pressure, throbbing, heaviness and aching in the legs occur. Other symptoms might include a sensation of cramping, burning, restlessness and itching. Patients with venous disease may also have swelling, dry irritated skin, discoloration, and thickening of the skin that can lead to skin erosion, ulceration and chronic wounds.

Varicose veins can also be associated with hemorrhage and blood clots. Although this form of clot (thrombophlebitis) is generally not considered dangerous, patients with varicose veins have an increased risk of venous thrombosis that does require blood thinners.

WHO IS AFFECTED?

Almost anyone can develop varicose veins, but the incidence increases with age and those with a family history of vein problems. Women are affected more often than men and hormones (like estrogen) may be a factor. Varicose veins frequently occur during or after pregnancy. Patients who have experienced blood clots are more likely to have varicose veins. Occupations with long periods of sitting or standing, patients who are overweight, and those with lower amounts of regular physical activity are at greater risk.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight, and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing are recommended, particularly in patients who have a family history of varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency. Elevating the legs, even for short amounts of time during the day will help reduce venous pressure and symptoms.

Compression stockings help with symptoms of varicose veins and venous hypertension. They help the calf muscles pump blood flow more effectively.

If you have symptoms of varicose veins, talk to a physician dedicated to the treatment of venous disease. Assessment should include a detailed history and physical exam, and an ultrasound to evaluate the venous function of your legs. More detailed studies may be required for complete evaluation.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

In the past, an operation to remove the abnormal veins (“vein stripping”), was the most common therapy for varicose veins. Over the last two decades, however, new technologies have evolved to treat veins in an outpatient clinic setting without the need for hospitalization or long recovery times.

These minimally invasive techniques effectively remove the poorly functioning veins from circulation by heating them in a process called endothermal ablation. The treatment causes damage to the lining of the vein along with inflammation that will close off the vein without having to surgically remove it.

During the procedure, local anesthesia in the leg is combined with mild sedation. After the endothermal ablation, if appropriate, the associated varicose veins are frequently removed through tiny incisions in a process called microphlebectomy. The whole procedure is usually complete in 1-2 hours, and can usually be performed in a patient-friendly, medi-spa environment.

The smaller reticular and “spider” veins are treated by injecting an FDA approved drug directly into the vein, a process called chemical ablation or sclerotherapy.

The physicians at Intermountain Vascular and Vein Clinics in Murray and Ogden have been treating venous disease and varicose veins for more than 20 years. Both centers are certified by the International Accreditation Committee (IAC). This a nationally recognized organization tasked with credentialing centers who maintain the highest medical standards. Our goal is not just the treatment of varicose veins, but to create an individualized plan to help people achieve the best possible quality of life.