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Venous Insufficiency, Varicose Veins, and Spider Veins

Coastal Vascular Center  >  Venous Insufficiency, Varicose Veins, and Spider Veins

Venous Insufficiency, Varicose Veins, and Spider Veins


Varicose Veins and Spider Veins are blood vessels that develop over time just under the skin of the legs. As unsightly as Varicose Veins and Spider Veins are, they can also indicate serious health issues including poor circulation.

Arteries carry blood away from the heart.  Veins return blood to the heart.  Blood in the veins of the legs must overcome gravity to return to the heart – the legs are typically below the heart.  To keep blood flowing back to the heart, 1 way valves are present every few inches.  Over time, the valves can fail. This allows blood to “fall” back into the legs in between heartbeats.  This creates elevated venous pressure.  Over time this elevated pressure in the veins spills out into the smaller veins which then enlarge – varicose veins and spider veins.  The medical term when the valves fail is VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY.

Venous insufficiency is very common.  Typical symptoms of Venous Insufficiency are leg aches, pains and a feeling of heaviness.  These symptoms generally develop as the day progresses and are most notable in the evening.  Itching and leg swelling are also common symptoms of Venous Insufficiency.  Skin changes most notable around the ankles can develop as well.

Evaluation for Venous insufficiency is done with ultrasound. The veins of the legs are evaluated with specific attention to determine if the valves have failed. Once the diagnosis of Venous Insufficiency is confirmed with Ultrasound a period of conservative therapy is started. Conservative therapy involves wearing stockings, leg elevation and exercise.  Conservative therapy ranges from six weeks to three months depending on insurance .

If conservative therapy fails to control the signs and symptoms of Venous Insufficiency, definitive treatment can be offered.  The saphenous vein is usual the culprit vein not functioning properly. This vein runs just under the skin along the inner calf and thigh.  To treat this vein a procedure called endovenous ablation is performed. This is a minor procedure done in the office with local anesthesia. To perform and endovenous ablation an IV is started in the saphenous vein.  Thru this IV a thin radiofrequency catheter is passed.  When turned on the catheter generates heat which “closes” the vein. Once the culprit vein is treated, the residual varicose and spider veins are usually treated with sclerotherapy. Depending the extent of the problem this process can take anywhere from 2 to 12 months to complete.


8 Tips For Preventing Varicose Veins


Here are 8 tips to help you prevent varicose & spider veins by maintaining healthy circulation in your legs:

  1. Reducing your weight is one way to prevent varicose veins. Extra weight and strain on the legs is one of the major causes of varicose veins, so getting down to a healthy weight will be as beneficial to varicose vein prevention as it will to other aspects of your health.
  2. Try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time in order to prevent varicose veins from forming. When sitting, stand up from time to time and move around to encourage circulation. When standing, the added stress on your legs puts stress on the veins and can cause varicose veins to form if you’re not careful.
  3. Since you can’t avoid standing completely, you can help to prevent making varicose veins worse by wearing compression stockings that help improve your circulation. We recommend that patients wear a 15 mm Hg to 20 mm Hg pressure hose every day. With larger varicose veins your physician may prescribe up to 30 mm Hg to 40 mm Hg pressure.
  4. Exercising, especially by biking, swimming and walking can help to improve the circulation in your legs and prevent varicose veins.
  5. By quitting smoking, too, you also help increase the circulation in your entire body, including your legs. Also, by quitting smoking, you help yourself avoid high blood pressure, which is also associated with the development of varicose veins.
  6. If you are female, avoid high-estrogen birth control pills and hormonal supplements to prevent varicose veins. Estrogen in high amounts has been shown to change your circulation, which can contribute to the development of varicose veins.
  7. Wear low-heeled or flat shoes whenever possible and clothes that aren’t constricting to your legs and waist to keep the circulation going in your legs and prevent varicose & spider veins.
  8. Kick up your feet and relax awhile! By elevating your feet above your heart for a period of time each day, you can help prevent the development of varicose & spider veins.

If you find that these tips aren’t enough to prevent varicose & spider veins, consider seeking a consultation with a vascular specialist. There are minimally invasive medical treatments designed to treat varicose & spider veins to keep you looking and feeling your best this summer