Varicose Veins Austin
The treatment of varicose veins is one of the specialties of our Austin vein center. Varicose veins are swollen, dark blue or purple blood vessels that you can obviously see and feel beneath the skin. They often look like twisted cords, and usually appear on the calves, inside of the legs, and ankles. As varicose veins continue to weaken under the constant strain, then often continue to get bigger and balloon outward. This tends to raise the skin surface and causing the skin to bulge and thin out or get discolored. Many of our patients in Austin suffer from varicose veins of the legs, with over 25 million Americans being afflicted by the condition. Worldwide, up to 40% of women and 25% of men develop varicose veins during their lifetime.
Veins are blood vessels that return blood to the heart once it has circulated through the body (as opposed to arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body). Healthy veins carry the non-oxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs so that the blood cells can be replenished with oxygen, allowing the refreshed blood to be reenter the circulation once again. Veins have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing in the proper direction (i.e. toward the heart).
If these vein valves stop functioning in the way that they are supposed to, blood begins to flow backwards and pool in the veins, raising the blood pressure in the veins themselves. This process leads to a vein disease called venous hypertension and venous reflux disease. The build-up of pressure within the diseased veins leads to the vein walls stretching and thinning. This process leads to the development of unsightly enlarged and bulging blue veins beneath the surface of the skin. Vein specialists refer to abnormal stretched and enlarged veins as varicose veins or varicosities.
Small dark blue or purple varicose veins in the range of 1 to 3 mm in diameter are sometimes referred to as reticular veins. Reticluar veins have a unique and distinct appearnce to them and are often surrounded by smaller spider veins. Reticular veins (also known as blue veins) can also be distinguished from more typical varicose veins by the fact that they are usually located within the skin, in comparison to the larger varicose veins which are always located beneath the skin and tend to bulge more than reticular veins.
Our varicose vein specialists consider the condition a “disease” since the valves within the veins are defective and the blood flow within these veins is backwards. The disease process does tend to spread to other areas of the legs over time, as the leg veins are connected to one another through a series of branch connections. These vein connections allow the venous hypertension to spread from diseased varicose veins to healthy vein segments. It is often described as a “domino effect” of more and more vein valves breaking as they are exposed to the elevated vein pressure from adjacent diseased veins. Therefore, varicose vein disease does tend to worsen over time and begins to involve larger and larger areas of the leg. The sooner the condition is treated, the easier it is to deal with medically. Patients with varicose veins and reticular veins often develop aching, throbbing, cramping, burning, itching and other symptoms that may indicate a need for medical attention. Other patients with varicose vein disease may remain without symptoms for years.
Risks Factors For Varicose Veins
While varicose veins can affect nearly anyone of any age, they tend to occur more often in patients possessing certain risk factors, including:
- Older age
- Family history of varicose veins
- Female gender
- Occupations that require excessive standing
- Hormone therapy
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive sun exposure
Although the risk tends to increase with age, varicose vein are often seen at very young ages, even in the teenage years. The sooner that vein disease is diagnosed and treated, the easier it tends to be to treat. Vein disease always progressively worsens with time.
Diagnosing Varicose Veins
Our vein doctors in Austin can usually diagnose varicose veins and any associated conditions after a physical examination of the affected area. Additional testing may also be required, such as a venous ultrasound or venous reflux study. These studies allow the physician to obtain an anatomical “road map” of your circulation. This allows for more precise and targeted treatment options.
When to Consider Vein Treatment
If varicose veins are leading to any symptoms, one should consider medical evaluation. Patients report a wide variety of symptoms including burning or aching pain, throbbing, itching, and pressure sensations. Leg or ankle swelling is also a prominent complaint in those with varicose vein disease. Both discomfort and swelling can be signs of significant underlying circulation issues such as venous reflux, which requires additional testing for diagnosis.
While many of those suffering with varicose veins may not have leg discomfort, many patients with varicose veins are bothered by their appearance. Cosmetic reasons alone are the most common reason patients seek treatment for varicose veins and spider veins.
Patients often report embarrassment and reluctance to wear shorts or skirts. The condition can lead to avoidance of social activities or sports or the eroding of one’s self-confidence. They can even be the root of psychological problems related to body perception, such as body dysmorphic disorder.
Long-standing varicose vein disease can lead to many different problems, some more serious than others. This includes chronic wounds or ulcers in the feet and ankles (e.g. venous stasis ulcers), chronic leg or foot swelling or edema, discoloration or darkening pigment changes in the skin, thinning of the skin or other severe skin disorders including stasis dermatitis, recurrent thrombophlebitis, and increased risk of skin infections such as cellulitis. The longer that the varicose vein disease is present, the higher the likelihood of developing these medical problems.
Pain or discomfort symptoms in the legs can also be signs of more serious underlying medical conditions in the veins. Both phlebitis/thrombophlebitis as well as deep venous thrombosis can lead to pain or swelling in the veins of the leg. These conditions are best diagnosed by a physical exam and vein ultrasound.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
There are many reasons people seek treatment for varicose veins, including frequent discomfort, chronic swelling / edema, or skin damage. Many people with venous disease also seek cosmetic treatment to eliminate or reduce the appearance of unsightly varicose or spider veins on the legs. Sometimes patients seek out treatment to reduce their chances of developing more significant circulation problems down the road if their veins are left untreated.
There are several treatment options available to eliminate or reduce the appearance of variocose veins and relieve any symptom. These therapies may include self-care methods such as losing weight, keeping the legs elevated, using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, regular exercise, and wearing compression stockings.
More immediate and permanent relief of varicose veins is often achieved through interventional therapies. With advancements in technology, vein treatments can be administered with minimal discomfort and very fast recovery. Some of the more common and effective therapies include sclerotherapy and laser therapy.
- Sclerotherapy treats varicose veins by injecting a solution into the targeted veins that causes them to gradually disappear. The sclerosing solution used during the procedure irritates the vein lining and turns it into scar tissue that eventually fades away. Depending on the extent of your disease, it may require several treatment sessions to achieve the desired result.
- Radiofrequency Ablation of varicose veins (also known as VNUS Closure Procedure) involves placing a small catheter within the defective vein which delivers radiofrequency energy to the vein wall, causing it to seal shut instantly. It is typically performed in the office under local anesthesia and requires minimal recovery time.
- Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) of varicose veins is a minimally invasive laser procedure that treats varicose veins faster, safer and more effectively than surgical procedures, as it precisely targets the affected veins with a laser probe under ultrasound guidance. The laser energy delivered to the vein causes the vein walls to scar shut so that blood can no longer flow through them. Following laser vein therapy, the venous blood flow that once circulated through the varicose veins is diverted into healthy veins.
For more information regarding treatment options, please refer to the other pages of our website.
» Click here to view varicose vein before and after photos.
Preventing Varicose Veins
While there is no surefire way to prevent varicose veins from developing, there are certainly lifestyle changes that can be made in order to reduce your risk of developing further problems with this condition. This may include:
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a diet high in fiber and low in salt
- Elevating the legs
- Avoiding sitting or standing in one position for too long