Varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels which show up as blue, red, or flesh-colored bulges in the skin. Sometimes swollen or twisted, varicose veins are often found on the thighs, back of the calves or on the inside of the leg due to gravity and the pressure of body weight. They are caused by weak or damaged valves that leak blood back into the veins. About 50% of women and 40% of men suffer from some type of vein problem, with that number rising to about 50% for people 50 years and older.
Signs of varicose veins include aching pain that may get worse after sitting or standing for long periods of time, throbbing, cramping, heaviness, swelling, rash that’s itchy, darkening of the skin and restless legs. Sometimes varicose veins can lead to more serious health problems including sores or skin ulcers, bleeding, superficial thrombophlebitis, and deep vein thrombosis. Superficial thrombophlebitis is a blood clot that forms in a vein just under the skin, and deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in a deeper vein that causes a pulling feeling.
The most common treatment for varicose veins is sclerotherapy. This treatment uses an injection of polidocanol to reduce enlarged veins so they’re no longer visible through the skin. The injection is administered to treat either:
The doctor will make the injections directly to the varicose veins, applying compression to each injection spot while moving on to the next vein. After the injections are complete, your leg will be placed in a compression stocking or bandage. The physician will then have you walk for 15 to 20 minutes to prevent blood clots from forming.
Your compression will need to be worn for 2 to 3 days for spider veins and 5 to 7 days for reticular veins. For more extensive varicosities, the compression treatment will need to be longer and possibly include higher compression. The post-treatment compression reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
Surface laser treatments at LAMC effectively treat varicose veins by sending very strong bursts of light through the skin into the vein. The vein slowly fades and disappears into the surrounding skin. No needles or incisions are used, and laser treatments typically only last around 20 minutes. Possible side effects include redness or swelling of the skin right after treatment and discolored skin that will disappear within 1 to 2 months.