Do you have unsightly veins on your legs or another part of your body? Some of these veins are called varicose veins while others are referred to as spider veins. Knowing the difference between the two can help you find the proper treatment, leading to an improved quality of life.
Your life can improve with varicose vein treatments because sometimes these veins can cause discomfort or pain. At the very least, they can cause psychological damage, as you may want to hide your affected body parts with clothing. Some with severe vein issues may find themselves avoiding situations entirely out of fear of being judged for their dark, bulging veins.
Just know that this condition is incredibly common. Nearly a quarter of all American adults have varicose veins. If you are one of them, this information should be helpful for you.
After learning about varicose and spider veins, you can obtain a diagnosis and the proper treatments for your vein problems by scheduling a consultation with Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics. Call (310)694-4486 to choose an appointment time that works best for you.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are characterized by large, visible, and often twisted veins that can appear on the legs and other body parts. The condition is also referred to medically as varicoses or varicosities. While not always uncomfortable, for some unfortunate souls, varicose veins can cause pain.
Why Do Varicose Veins Form on the Legs and Body?
Varicose veins look the way they do because the otherwise invisible veins have become overfilled with blood. This causes the veins to become enlarged and appear swollen. They can raise and become visible through the skin, giving off a red or bluish purple color.
The veins fill with blood because they are not functioning the way they should. To understand this, know that a vein has a one-way valve that prevents blood from flowing backward. The sewer system leading away from your house has a similar mechanism. Waste water goes one way, but not the other way, otherwise, you would have a very stinky home.
Veins work the same way. When a vein malfunctions, blood begins collecting in the vein instead of continuing outward toward your heart. The blood pools inside, which causes the vein to become enlarged and visible through the skin.
Most people form varicose veins on their legs. These are the veins that are farthest on the body from your heart. Gravity makes it difficult for the blood to continue an upward flow.
Varicose veins are more common in women during pregnancy and menopause, but they can affect both men and women over the age of fifty and those suffering from obesity. The veins can form after standing for long periods of time and if you have a history of varicose veins in your family.
What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?
The first sign of varicose veins is a bulging, twisting mass of veins on the legs or body. They are usually highly visible and misshapen. Some people may feel pain and achiness around the affected area. The body part affected may also feel heavier than normal.
In severe cases, the veins can bleed, which can cause ulcers to form.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Varicose Veins?
The moment you suspect you have varicose veins, you should schedule an appointment with a varicose vein specialist, such as Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics. The doctor will examine the affected body part while you are standing and sitting to provide a proper diagnosis. You may be asked about other symptoms, such as pain, achiness, and heaviness.
Other tests may be conducted, such as an ultrasound to assess blood flow. Similar to how OBGYNs take images of a baby in the womb, an ultrasound is noninvasive and uses high-frequency sound waves to take an inside perspective of the affected area. The doctor is specifically checking for blood flow and ensuring the veins are operating properly.
A venogram is also sometimes used. With this imaging test, a special dye is injected into the legs before an X-ray is taken. The dye shows up clearly on the X-ray, giving the doctor a precise view of your veins and the blood flowing inside.
The doctor is looking for blood clots and blockages with these tests, which can also cause symptoms similar to varicose veins.
What are Spider Veins?
You may find during a diagnostic visit that you have spider veins instead of varicose veins. Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins and usually have a sunburst or spider web appearance. The veins are blue and red in color and are commonly found on the legs, but also the face.
Is Treatment Always Required for Varicose and Spider Veins?
Unless a blood clot is causing your condition, varicose veins are usually not a serious medical condition. There are ways you can treat the condition and prevent future varicose veins from forming. Lifestyle changes are the first course of action followed by more aggressive types of treatment, such as laser surgery.
What Are Some Lifestyle Changes that Can Treat Varicose Veins?
Avoid Standing for Too Long
If you already have varicose veins, standing for long periods of time can make the condition worse. Lengthy standing sessions can also cause new varicose or spider veins to form. If your legs begin aching or you feel a heaviness in your legs, sit as often as you can. Don’t sit down for too long, though, as living a sedentary lifestyle can also make you susceptible to varicose veins.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The disease of obesity can make varicose veins easier to form and exacerbate varicose veins that have appeared already. Losing the excess weight can help to treat varicose veins and may prevent new ones from forming. Once you reach the stage of obesity, losing weight can be difficult. Obesity treatments can help and include bariatric (weight loss) surgery such as the gastric sleeve, which is low risk, minimally invasive, and highly effective at helping patients slim down. Gastric sleeve surgery is also an effective treatment for obesity-related ailments like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, as well as varicose veins.
Read our article: Why Gastric Sleeve Surgery is Becoming a Favorite of Patients Worldwide
Engage in Regular Exercise
Getting and staying in shape can both treat varicose veins and prevent them from showing up in the first place. Walking is an excellent exercise that is easy enough for almost everyone to engage in. Walking encourages blood flow to the legs. Ask your health care provider to recommend an appropriate activity based on your level of fitness.
Getting plenty of vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat can help to keep your skin healthy and prevent varicose veins from forming. Staying away from salt is a major lifestyle change that can prevent enlarged veins from appearing through your skin. A low-salt diet will help to prevent swelling from water retention, which is a contributor to varicose veins.
Elevate the Legs
Keeping the legs elevated throughout the day and during the night while you sleep can increase blood flow and decrease pressure in the veins. This will help to prevent the problem from forming and can treat varicose veins that have already formed to some degree.
Choose Adequate Clothes and Footwear
Other ways to prevent varicose veins is to avoid tight clothing and wear the proper footwear. Clothes that feel tight around the waist, legs, and groin can reduce blood flow, leading to bulging veins in your legs and other bodily areas. As far as shoes go, try to avoid high heels. Low-heeled shoes are better for your calf muscles and will help to prevent varicose veins.
What Medical Treatments are Available for Varicose Veins?
Depending on the type and severity of the problem, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments.
A moment ago, we discussed how keeping the legs elevated can improve blood flow and reduce pressure in the veins. Your doctor may recommend this if you have a mild case of varicose veins.
Your doctor will instruct you to keep your feet elevated above the heart level several times daily. You might set an alarm to remind you to elevate three or four times each day for fifteen minutes at a time. If you need to sit or stand for extended periods, such as at work, you can also flex your legs occasionally to keep your blood circulating. This treatment can help to reduce leg swelling and relieve other symptoms, such as achiness and pain.
Wear Compression Stockings
Your doctor may prescribe a pair of elastic stockings that squeeze the veins throughout the day. The constricting action of the stockings prevents blood from pooling inside the veins. This treatment will only work if you actively wear the stockings every day.
Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for varicose veins that appear on the legs. The treatment has become more advanced in recent years, making it safe and effective for varicose vein treatment. Sclerotherapy also works on smaller varicose veins and spider veins.
How Does Sclerotherapy Work?
The treatment is outpatient and is conducted in your doctor’s office. A chemical is first injected directly into the problematic veins, which is meant to irritate the vein walls. Other injections are given around the affected area as well.
The treatment area is then massaged to ensure the chemical is evenly distributed around the varicose veins. You are then given a pair of compression stockings to wear on each leg.
With the stockings in place, your doctor will observe you for a short time before you are cleared to return home.
The treatment causes the walls of the vein to stick together. This prevents the blood from pooling inside the veins, but it also affects blood flow. To prevent possible side effects of sclerotherapy, your doctor will recommend that you take daily walks to improve blood circulation. You should also wear compression stockings as directed every day. You will keep up this regimen for the next two or three weeks.
You are free to engage in your regular activities and return to work the day following treatment. Sclerotherapy should not interfere with any activities, including exercise.
How Long Does Sclerotherapy Take to Work?
Sclerotherapy is meant to improve circulation and reduce swelling around the treatment area. For spider veins, you should see a marked difference in appearance within three to six weeks. Varicose veins should diminish in color and swelling around three to four months following treatment.
To get the most out of sclerotherapy, you may require two or three treatments spaced a few months apart.
Your doctor may opt to use lasers for small varicose veins and spider veins. With this treatment, high-powered laser light is directed at the problematic vein. The treatment works instantly in most cases.
Small spider veins are likely to disappear immediately following laser treatment. For larger spider veins and varicose veins, the laser may darken the vein at first. Over time, the vein will steadily disappear. It may take one to three months for the vein to go away entirely. Some people require three or more laser treatments to completely eradicate varicose veins.
As with sclerotherapy, laser treatment for varicose veins should not hinder your regular lifestyle. You can return to work and your usual activities the very next day. Your doctor may recommend that you wear compression stockings for a short time after the lasers have ablated the veins to maximize effectiveness.
Your doctor will also advise you to avoid direct sunlight on the affected treatment area for at least three to four weeks. This helps to prevent dark spots from developing.
Ask for a Varicose Vein Diagnosis and Treatment by Calling Healthy Life Bariatrics
Leg vein treatment has an excellent track record for positive results. If you have problematic veins, varicose veins, or spider veins, schedule a consultation with Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki by calling Healthy Life Bariatrics. A single phone call can help you receive an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Dial (310)694-4486 to choose an appointment time that works best for you.