Learn about treatment options for varicose veins.
Varicose veins are abnormally swollen or enlarged blood vessels caused by a weakening in the vein's wall. They occur primarily in the legs but can appear in the arms and other parts of the body as well. They can be harmful to a patient's health because they may be associated with the development of one or more of the following conditions:
Phlebitis or an inflamed, tender vein
Thrombosis or a clot in the vein
Venous stasis ulcers and/or open sores from inadequate tissue oxygen and fluid retention
What you should know about varicose veins
The exact cause of varicose veins is unknown, although heredity, pregnancy and hormonal influences are believed to be primary contributing factors. More than 40 percent of women have some form of varicose condition. The incidence of venous disease increases as one gets older; about 80 percent of women exhibit some form of the condition by age 80. Slightly more women than men have varicose veins.
Do’s and don’ts
- Listen to your body. Both varicose and spider veins tend to be a cosmetic concern; however, they also can lead to serious health complications such as fatigue, night cramps, leg swelling or itching around certain veins, phlebitis, blood clots or leg ulceration. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, an ASDS dermatologist should be contacted for further assistance.
- Keep active. Activities such as walking, cycling and swimming all help to keep up blood circulation in legs and will reduce pressure and blood pooling.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Reducing body weight will eliminate excess pressure on the legs that cause veins to surface.
- Wear graduated compression stockings. Properly fitted graduated compression stockings ensure that pressure is evenly distributed on legs. Be careful, however, not to restrict blood circulation.
- Sit or stand for long periods of time. Being in one position for an extended period of time can place pressure on veins. Change positions every 30 minutes to increase blood flow. Flex calf muscles frequently to keep up circulation while sitting at a desk or during long car or plane trips.
- Assume all treatments will work. Speak to an ASDS dermatologist about a variety of treatment options available, such as lasers or injections. Depending on the severity of vein damage, experts can determine the best treatment option for you.
- Subject legs to excessive heat. The heat associated with long hot baths and hot tubs will actually increase vein swelling and lead to blood pooling.
- Fall for bogus advertisements. While tempting, such treatments may not be legitimate. It’s best to consult with a dermatologic surgeon to explore treatment options.
- Wear overly restrictive clothing. Clothing around specific body parts – including waist, legs and the groin area – can restrict circulation and lead to spider and varicose veins.
Varicose vein questions to ask a dermatologic surgeon
(Download a Varicose Vein Questionnaire to bring to your appointment)
- Which varicose vein procedure is the correct one for me? (What are the options?)
- What is the estimated cost of the procedure?
- How long is one appointment?
- How often will I need to receive treatment for my varicose veins?
- How far apart are the treatments?
- What are the common side effects or complications associated with the procedure?
- How can I prepare for the treatment/procedure?
- Does the treatment hurt?
- What are my pain management and anesthesia options?
- How long is the recovery time associated with my procedure?
- Do you have before-and-after patient images to help to prepare me for what to expect?
- Will someone walk me through the process before going in for treatment?
- What are the risks?
- What should I expect after the procedure is performed? (i.e., short-term and long-term effects; activity restrictions; expected recovery period)
General questions to ask before varicose vein procedures
- Is a doctor on site?
- Is the doctor board-certified in dermatology or in another specialty with equivalent training and experience?
- Was my medical history taken?
- Was I given an initial evaluation to determine if the technique or procedure is appropriate for my skin type?
- Did the doctor show me before-and-after photos?