What is a varicose vein, anyway?

Reflections for laser skin rejuvenation.
Reflections for laser skin rejuvenation.

 

We all know what they look like: Swollen, twisted, blue or purple veins popping up under the skin, making an unsightly and knotted mass on the legs. But what exactly are spider and varicose veins, and how can they be treated?

Well, the condition appears when the valves in the vein stop functioning properly, according to Medical News Today. In a normal vein, the mechanisms open and close to promote an even, one-directional flow. However, some individuals have a harmless congenital defect in their valves, causing blood to move in both direction and leading to dilated, bulging veins, the news source reported.

It's estimated that 30 percent of adults have varicose or spider veins, which most often occur in women. While these blue bulges may make you feel too shy to wear skirts, dresses or shorts out in public, they are unlikely to cause any negative health problems.

In some cases, varicose or spider veins may become painful or make the legs feel heavy. Individuals with these symptoms may want to seek treatment for their condition in order to improve their quality of life.

People who are not too bothered by their appearance but want to make an effort to stop the progression of the condition may want to consider compression stockings, which squeeze the legs from the ankle up to improve circulation. These can be uncomfortable, especially during warm weather, and may not be effective for some, but the stockings are still a good option for certain individuals.

Ligation and stripping is a method in which a surgeon ties off the vein, threads a wire through it and pulls it out through an incision. This operation completely removes varicose veins, but comes with risks of bleeding, bruising, pain and even deep vein thrombosis. Additionally, patients typically need to take one to three weeks off work and other activities while they heal.

Technology in laser vein removal has come a long way since its early days. The technique consists of strong bursts of light that make spider veins fade away, according to WomensHealth.gov. Usually, a patient require two or three sessions to completely get rid of unsightly veins, each lasting about 15 or 20 minutes. Best of all, individuals can resume normal activities following laser vein removal.

For more severe varicose veins, an endovenous laser vein treatment may be needed. During this procedure, bothersome veins are treated from the inside with radiofrequency or laser energy to restore normal blood flow and reduce the appearance of bulging veins. 

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Jan 27th, 2012
by Dr. Mitchell Chasin
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