Varicose veins are unsightly, swollen veins that usually occur in the legs. They are often blue or purple and have a lumpy and twisted appearance. In the past, surgery was the only treatment to remove varicose veins, but today there are other treatments that are minimally invasive such as endovenous laser ablation (EVLA).
Varicose veins develop because the veins in the legs are weak and not able to return blood to your heart. Veins in the legs must work against gravity and have tiny valves that help push the blood along. When these valves become weak and stop properly functioning, the blood starts to pool in the veins.
Some of the most common causes for varicose veins are:
• Pregnancy – some women develop varicose veins during pregnancy. This is because pressure reduces the blood flow from the legs to the pelvis. The hormonal changes during pregnancy also play a role in developing varicose veins.
• Age – veins naturally become weaker as you grow older. When they lose elasticity, they begin to stretch and the valves become weak.
• Women – varicose veins are more common in women than men mainly because of hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause and pre-menstruation. Taking birth control pills may also increase the risk of developing varicose veins.
• Heredity – if someone in your family has varicose veins, there is a good chance you will too.
• Work – people who stand for long periods in their jobs are also at risk of developing varicose veins.
• Obesity – basically, any extra weight that puts pressure on your legs will contribute to the development of varicose veins.
Endovenous laser ablation is a popular treatment for varicose veins because it is minimally invasive. A tiny catheter is inserted into the vein and a small fiber is threaded through the catheter and positioned at the top of the targeted vein.
Short bursts of laser are sent along the fiber through the tube to heat the wall of the weak vein and irreversibly close it. The vein will gradually disappear.
The procedure is safe and has a high success rate. It requires no anesthetic and the patient is fully ambulatory after treatment. The recovery time is short and there is virtually no scarring.
Varicose veins are most common in the legs, but they may also develop in the rectum, esophagus, uterus, vagina and pelvis and may not always be obvious. You may be developing them without noticing.
Some of the symptoms to look for are:
• Swollen ankles
• Heaviness in the legs especially at night or after exercising
• Spider veins
• Dry, red and itchy skin on the legs
• Leg cramps
• Restless leg syndrome
• White patches around the ankles
It is no longer necessary to undergo surgery for most people who suffer from varicose veins. If you are interested in endovenous laser ablation, contact South Texas Vein Institute today to schedule your appointment.