When we’re busy, it can be easy to neglect our health. We assume minor discomforts will go away, and put off making a doctor’s appointment because we think that our symptoms are nothing to worry about. Sometimes, though, there is a medical issue that can lead to bigger complications. If you have noticed varicose or spider veins in your legs, or your legs are swollen, tired and achy, make an appointment with a vein specialist because these are all symptoms related to venous disease. In this Q & A, Dr. David Pinsinski of Artemis Colorado – Vein & Cosmetic Center, answers common questions about the symptoms and treatment of venous disease.
Venous disease is the progressive loss of function in the vein system in your lower legs. Veins fight against gravity to move the blood from your feet back up to your heart. As the blood moves up the leg, valves in the veins close to prevent it from reversing direction. When these valves weaken or stop functioning, however, the blood can pool and stretch the vein walls, which may lead to the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins. Multiple factors contribute to venous disease, including age, occupations requiring long periods of standing or sitting, genetics, childbirth or trauma. Long-term venous disease may lead to symptoms such as heaviness, aching, pain, swelling, tenderness, skin changes, restless legs, and more.
Like spider veins, varicose veins are actually the end result of long-term venous disease. Varicose veins bulge from the skin and appear “ropey,” as if there is a twisted rope in the leg. The veins may be dark purple or blue. Many people have this condition, though it is most prevalent in older adults, especially women. Once these veins appear, they will not go away on their own. However, having the veins treated by a qualified vein specialist can reduce or eliminate their appearance.
Spider veins look like tiny networks of red, blue, or purple veins just under the surface of the skin, and typically resemble a spider web. Many patients are distressed by the appearance of the veins from a cosmetic standpoint, but they can also be an indication that there is more serious venous disease. Spider veins often occur alongside varicose veins, and either one may be accompanied with physical discomfort.
Since varicose veins stem from a deeper problem, the first step is to identify that problem in the larger veins using ultrasound technology. If an issue is found, then a laser fiber can be gently inserted to ablate the diseased vein. After ablation, small sections of the bulging vein may be removed to improve symptoms as well as appearance. The treated vein is not missed because other veins take over its function. These procedures are almost completely painless and are very safe – they are performed thousands of times each year. Artemis uses the most up-to-date technology, known as the CoolTouch® laser, to maximize patient comfort and minimize temporary bruising. After having the procedure done, a patient can go about normal daily activities, though we do recommend that patients not engage in strenuous exercise for a few days while the body heals.
As with varicose veins, spider veins typically indicate that there is a bigger issue. We first examine the larger veins using ultrasound. Doing this allows us to locate the source of the problem. After treating any diseased veins using the laser ablation procedure, a special medicine is injected into the spider vein itself. This method is called sclerotherapy. It is also a very common procedure, and has been in use for over a century. Of course, the techniques have changed and improved over time! Today the procedure is simple and effective – after being treated, the spider veins typically disappear in a few weeks.
If your lower legs suffer from pain, swelling, fatigue or tenderness, it may indicate that your veins are in the early stages of venous disease, and varicose or spider veins could be forming. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s time for a checkup. It’s worth keeping in mind that venous disease is a medical issue, so treatment is usually covered by insurance.
There are many ways to improve vein health. For workers who have to stand a lot, compression stockings can reduce swelling and fatigue. Elevating the legs while on break, or after work, can also help. If someone sits at a desk all day, stepping away from the computer every hour to walk a flight of stairs, or even up and down the hallway, can improve circulation. Exercise is also a great preventative step, especially walking. Remember though, if small symptoms are left untreated, they may progress to a more serious medical problem. It’s worth speaking to a vein specialist who can help you determine if your symptoms are significant, and how to correct problems that have already appeared.
Take time out for your health today and call Artemis Vein Center. On the phone they will discuss your symptoms and help you determine if an in-person examination should be the next step.