Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are visible through the skin and may appear as blue or purple twisted, knot-like cords. Varicose veins can occur anywhere in the body, but are more commonly found on the legs. Hemorrhoids, a type of varicose vein, can appear during pregnancy around the anus or in the vagina.
Severe varicose veins may eventually produce long-term mild swelling that can result in more serious skin and tissue problems, such as ulcers and nonhealing sores.
The following are the most common symptoms of varicose veins. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include color changes in the skin, sores on the legs, skin rash, or abnormal sensations in the legs (i.e., heavy feeling, burning, and/or aching).
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for varicose veins may include any, or a combination, of the following:
Duplex ultrasound. This is a type of vascular ultrasound procedure done to assess blood flow and the structure of the leg veins. The term "duplex" refers to the fact that two modes of ultrasound are used - Doppler and B-mode. The B-mode transducer (like a microphone) obtains an image of the vessel being studied. The Doppler probe within the transducer evaluates the velocity and direction of blood flow in the vessel.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of a large magnet, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRV is useful in some cases because it can help detect causes of leg pain other than vein problems.
Medical treatment may not be necessary if there are no symptoms. However, varicose veins may sometimes worsen without treatment. Treatment for varicose veins may include the followings:
Elevation of the legs. You may be instructed to elevate your feet above the level of your heart three or four times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. If you need to sit or stand for a long period of time, flexing (bending) your legs occasionally can help keep blood circulating. If you have mild to moderate varicose veins, elevating your legs can help reduce leg swelling and relieve other symptoms.
Compression stockings. These elastic stockings squeeze or compress the veins and prevent blood from flowing backward. In addition, compression stockings may help with healing of skin sores and prevention of additional sores. Compression stockings are effective in treating varicose veins if worn daily and may prevent the need for more invasive treatment.
Sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for both spider and varicose veins. This procedure involves a saline or chemical solution that is injected into the varicose veins that causes them to harden so that they no longer fill with blood. Blood that would normally return to the heart through these veins returns to the heart by way of other veins. The veins that received the injection will eventually shrivel and disappear. The scar tissue is absorbed by the body.
Laser treatment. Laser treatment is a type of treatment for varicose veins. Until recently, laser treatment was mainly used for treatment of spider veins on the face. However, newer laser technology can now effectively treat varicose veins as well. There are several types of lasers that may be used to treat varicose veins. The physician inserts a tiny fiber into a varicose vein through a catheter. The fiber sends out laser energy that destroys the diseased portion of your varicose vein. The vein closes and your body eventually absorbs it.
Closure ablation. Ablation involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube called a catheter inserted into a varicose vein. The tip of the catheter heats the walls of the varicose vein using radiofrequency energy (also known as Closure procedure) and destroys the vein tissue. Once destroyed, the vein is no longer able to carry blood and is absorbed by your body.
Transilluminated powered phlebectomy. This vein removal procedure makes use of a bright light to illuminate the vein. A device is passed through a tiny incision and removes the vein with suction.