What is Vein Disease?
Think of our vein system as a river system with tiny tributaries feeding into creeks and small rivers, which then merge to form larger rivers. The veins in the leg move blood back to the heart; when the pressure in the veins is too high the large and small veins can multiply, dilate and their path become elongated and tortuous. This is called venous disease. When this happens the veins can look unsightly when they are on or near the surface of the skin and a source of discomfort and other more serious consequences when the deeper vein system is involved.
When small veins are dilated within and below the skin they are called telangiectasias or reticular veins; commonly known as spider veins. These are less problematic than when the dilation occurs in the deeper veins- Varicose Veins. These smaller dilated surface veins are the most common affecting about 60% of people. Women are more frequently affected than men. This may be because of hormones and pregnancy. Varicose veins involve the larger and deeper veins and these are less common affecting 20-30% of the population, increase with age and also thought to be more common in women.
What causes Dilated Veins?
Being female, having a family history or having lax ligaments are some of the risks that you are born with. Other factors that contribute are prolonged standing, smoking, being sedentary, being overweight, advancing age and high estrogen states such as pregnancy. Using compression, leg elevation, being active, and obtaining a normal weight may slow the progression and ease symptoms. Some treatments may make significant changes to the course of the vein disease, however, there is no cure.
What can be done for Telangiectasias- Spider Veins?
Typical effective treatment is injecting these small veins with a solution that irritates the lining of the vein causing it to seal off. This is called sclerotherapy and is done by a series of injections using tiny needles in a medical clinic. The number of sessions needed depends on how extensive the vein matting is; typical is 6 sessions with annual retreatment in a person without significant deeper varicose veins. Typically the treated veins will disappear over weeks and months. About 10% of people may not respond. Retreatment is needed as the underlying vein disease continues and new spider and reticular veins will form.
It used to be thought that women must finish their childbearing years before starting vein treatments; this is no longer the case, although you cannot be pregnant or nursing at the time of treatment.
The treatment is mildly uncomfortable. For best results, you will need to walk after the treatments and wear compression. Side effects of treatment may include allergic reaction, redness, itching, bruising, swelling, ulceration and new telangiectasias (which typically resolve within 6 months).
Treatment with sclerotherapy for spider veins is provided by Dr. Maureen Sweeney.
Book a consultation to find out more.
What is the treatment for Varicose Veins?
These deeper veins are a source of distress for many not only because they can be unsightly but because they cause symptoms such as aching, cramping, swelling, skin changes and ulceration. They also put the person at risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and inflammation such as Thrombophlebitis. Because of the increased risk of DVT with venous disease, it is always important to seek medical advice when flying or in other conditions where DVT risk is heightened.
Treatment depends on the degree of involvement and may include Sclerotherapy, laser or radiofrequency within the deep vein system and /or surgery. Although not curative these treatments may slow the progression of the disease, ease symptoms and improve ulceration and skin changes. Typically venous medical specialists such as vascular surgeons treat the deep varicose veins and advance disease.