Veins and arteries, while both part of the circulatory system, function quite differently from each other. Arteries bring oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the extremities. Veins, unlike arteries, channel oxygen-depleted blood back towards the heart. Veins have one-way stop valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards. These stop valves ensure that the oxygen-depleted blood flows back to the heart. If the valves of the veins stop functioning properly, blood pools in the vein, causing the vein to enlarge and bulge. These enlarged veins are commonly called spider veins or varicose veins. Spider veins are small red, blue or purple veins on the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are larger distended, bulging veins that are located somewhat deeper than spider veins.
Pain in the legs is frequently related to spider or varicose veins. Symptoms, which are often made worse by prolonged standing, include feelings of fatigue, heaviness, aching, burning, throbbing, itching, cramping, swelling, and restlessness of the legs. Severe varicose veins can compromise the nutrition of the skin and lead to eczema, inflammation or even ulceration of the lower leg. Vein disorders are not always visible, and diagnostic tools such as physical exams and ultrasound guidance are often used to determine the cause and severity of the problem.
Heredity is the number one contributing factor in causing varicose and spider veins. Women are more likely to develop abnormal leg veins. Hormonal factors including puberty, pregnancy, menopause and the use of hormones can affect or contribute to vein disorders. Due to increases in hormone levels and blood volume, it is common for pregnant women to develop varicose veins during the first trimester. Varicose veins due to pregnancy often improve within 3 months after delivery. However, with successive pregnancies, abnormal veins are more likely to remain. Other contributing factors include age, obesity, leg injury, and occupations involving prolonged standing.
If left untreated, the symptoms of varicose veins may become severe, depending on the circumstances. Many people who don’t treat their varicose veins will experience continued pain, fatigue, and swelling of ankles and legs. More advanced medical problems may include hyperpigmentation (dark discoloration of the skin), lipodermosclerosis (firm, hard skin and fat tissue), venous leg ulcers, spontaneous bleeding, superficial thrombophlebetis (vein inflammation just below skin surface), and a potentially life-threatening condition called deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in vein deep inside body).
Although the conditions associated with untreated varicose veins are treatable, they can be severe and even life threatening. For this reason, it is highly recommended that persons suffering from varicose veins get treatment before their symptoms become severe.
EVLT™ is a quick, minimally invasive, in-office laser treatment that is an alternative to surgical stripping of the varicose vein. Instead of surgically removing the vein, it is sealed close in place. This endovenous laser procedure leaves no scar and takes less than one hour. It is quick, safe and effective.