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Beneath the Surface of Varicose Veins and How to Treat Them

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Beneath the Surface of Varicose Veins and How to Treat Them

An estimated 25 to 30 percent of adults have some degree of leg vein issues, many of those dealing with varicose veins. Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins seen just under the surface of the skin. They typically appear in the legs, but they can form in other parts of the body as well.

"Varicose veins are the result of valve failure in the major veins in the legs. If valves in the leg veins fail, blood that should be pumped out of the legs flows back down the leg simply because of gravitational pull," explains Rick Wilson, MD, FASDS, Director of Cooper Clinic Dermatology and Cooper Clinic Preventive and Cosmetic Dermatologist. "Blood flows back into the legs, dilates the veins, causing them to appear as rough, blue veins sticking up above the surface of the skin."

Varicose veins are most often genetic, though hormonal changes can also cause the veins to bulge as the veins weaken and begin to dilate. Women are more likely to experience them earlier than men, as varicose veins can be caused by hormonal changes.

Often simply a cosmetic issue, in some cases, varicose veins do cause medical problems including pain, blood clots, skin ulcers and other problems requiring medical intervention and removal of the varicose veins. Blood clots in the legs can move into the heart and lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

While many people with varicose veins choose to have them removed for cosmetic issues, it is also medically beneficial to treat varicose veins in order to prevent dangerous health problems such as blood clots, swelling, discoloration of the skin, and ulcers, which can lead to infection.

Treating Varicose Veins

If you notice blue, bulging veins in your legs or other parts of your body, have your doctor evaluate your veins to determine if treatment is immediately necessary and which course of treatment is ideal for your individual case.

Technology has vastly improved treatment for varicose veins. In the past, patients undergoing a procedure to remove varicose veins required general anesthesia in the operating room with recovery times lasting two to eight weeks. Ugly scars, nerve damage and pain requiring narcotic pain relievers were common side effects of the procedure.

Today, varicose veins can be treated in an outpatient procedure with the use of local anasthetic and laser technology. Ultrasound technology is used to identify the unhealthy veins, which are then removed or simply shrunken with heat, thus reducing the risk of blood clots, infection and other health problems.

Other procedures used to treat varicose veins include: phlebectomy surgery for smaller branching veins or ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy, in which air is introduced into the vein, irritating the inside lining of the vein so that the vein heals itself shut.

If you notice enlarged or raised veins or swelling in your legs, Dr. Wilson recommends you see your doctor for an examination. The sooner varicose veins are addressed, the less a patient’s risk of complications. In some cases, small varicose veins can exist for years without change or serious risk of complication. In these cases, treatment is generally considered cosmetic. Larger varicose veins pose the greatest risk of complications, and in these cases treatment or removal of the varicose veins is often medically necessary.

For more information on Cooper Clinic Dermatology services, visit or call 972.367.6000.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.