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October 6, 2008

Treating Varicose Veins

By Samantha Everett

You know what they are because you, like 44% of women (by age 30), have some sort of abnormal vein development, or varicose veins, in your legs.

And if you’re like most women, you want to get rid of them. Now while spider veins are nothing more than an ugly nuisance, varicose veins can swell and become quite painful over time. One thing’s for sure though: If you’re anything like most women, you want to get rid of them for good.

What are varicose veins?

Without getting all “doctor” on you, your heart consistently pumps blood to supply oxygen and all that good stuff throughout your entire body. And while arteries carry blood from your heart to every area of your body, veins take the blood from these other areas of your body and return them to the heart.

Now, your veins are like a one-way street in that they have valves that keep blood from traveling backwards; however, when those valves become weak (due, for instance, to standing all day long), some of the blood trickles back into your vein and becomes clogged, thus causing what it widely known as varicose veins.

FACTOID: Hemorrhoids are varicose veins that form around the anus or, in the case of pregnancy, in the vagina.

Why are spider / varicose veins so prominent?

Varicose veins are a dark bluish hue and look all twisty. They manage to make their way to the surface of the skin so that they are annoyingly visible to the naked eye.

Spider veins can be found virtually anywhere on the body (I have some near my ribs), but are most prominent on the legs and face. Depending on the woman, they can be found all over the body or only in a very small section of the body.

The reason these veins are most prominent in the lower extremities is due to:

- The force of gravity
- The pressure of body weight
- The task of carrying blood up to the heart

The veins in your legs have it tough because they have to carry blood uphill to your heart.

Are varicose veins dangerous?

Now while it’s rare, these veins can produce very undesirable reactions in the body, such as blood clotting, skin ulcers (sores) on the skin surrounding the varicose vein area, and swelling painful rashes.

These occurrences are rare, but if you have any of the following symptoms as a result of the veins, you may want to consult a doctor regarding treatment:

- Fatigue
- Heaviness
- Numbness
- Rashes
- Skin surrounding vein(s) becomes darker

Can I cure varicose veins myself?

You cannot alleviate or get rid of these veins on your own. As well, genetics also play a factor in whether or not your body will develop varicose/spider veins. There are, however, preventive measures you can take to minimize your chances of getting more or making them worse:

- Wear sunscreen to minimize spider veins
- Exercise every day to improve circulation
- Don’t cross your legs while sitting
- Try elevating your legs higher than your body when you lie down
- Wear support hose (I know you won’t, but it is preventive)
- Avoid salt
- Increase fiber intake

What treatments are there for varicose veins?

Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution directly into the vein. The solution, in turn, causes the vein’s walls to swell up, then stick together and seal shut.

Does it hurt? No.

Does it eliminate varicose veins? Yes. Although you made need to be treated more than once, the American Academy of Dermatology states that up to 90% of patients can expect to see a dramatic improvement.

How much does it cost? Between $100 and $400 (US) per session.

This treatment is similar to sclerotherapy except the veins are sealed off with an electrical current instead of the injection of solution. This treatment may leave scars.

Does it hurt? A bit. You will feel a mild tingling sensation.

Does it eliminate varicose veins? Most experts agree that electrodesiccation is more effective when used to treat the face rather than the legs, although the technique may be used for both.

How much does it cost? Between $150 (for the face) and $400 (for the legs) per session.

Laser surgery (small to medium veins)
Laser surgery is not really a surgery, per se, but rather a technique that involves placing a catheter (a thin tube) into the vein, which sends radiofrequency energy that shrinks and seals the vein.

Does it hurt? A bit. If you’re a complete wuss when it comes to pain, ask the doctor to apply a topical numbing agent first.

Does it eliminate varicose veins? Yes. Approved in 1999 by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) doctors feel that this treatment will eventually become the standard in treating varicose and spider veins.

How much does it cost? Between $300 to $450 per session.

Surgical Ligation & Stripping (large veins)
Yes, this is surgery. Veins are tied shut and removed from the leg.

Does it hurt? No, you’ll be under a general anesthetic.

Does it eliminate varicose veins? Yes, patients who’ve had the surgery reported a 90% decrease in spider and varicose veins.

How much does it cost? About $700 per session.

Potential complications for all the aforementioned treatments include:

- Matting
- Discoloration
- Skin Death
- Swelling

Discuss varicose veins with your doctor

Before you decide what you’re going to do, you should head to a doctor or technician via word of mouth approval (ask around, you’re bound to find a woman who’s had her veins removed). Bruising is a common occurrence after the treatments, but you want to ensure that you don’t leave feeling worse than you did when you walked in.

Good luck.

1 comment:

Amelia said...

This post says it all. The one thing I would add is that compression stocking manufacturers do make some varieties nowadays that aren't your granny's stockings - patterns, fishnet, etc. Sigvaris is a good brand for fashionable compression stocking choices. They really do work to reduce varicose veins, with no risk to le baby.


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