Varicose Veins FAQs

Varicose veins are enlarged veins near the surface of the skin which may be troubling both cosmetically and medically. They occur most frequently in the legs, but may exist elsewhere in the body. Following are some of the questions frequently asked by patients who suffer with varicose veins.

What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins are caused by a backflow of blood in the veins due to venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency is the diseased condition of veins no longer able to carry blood efficiently back to the heart. When blood pools in the legs, varicose veins result. Venous insufficiency is sometimes caused by deep vein thrombosis or high blood pressure inside the veins of the leg. Damaged veins may also be the result of injury, disease or surgery.

Who is most at risk for varicose veins?

Risk factors for varicose veins may include a family history of this condition, obesity, pregnancy and a sedentary lifestyle. Individuals who work in professions which require a great deal of sitting or standing, like waiters, drivers, or nurses, or individuals who spend a great deal of time traveling in cars or airplanes, are at high risk. Varicose veins occur more commonly in women and individuals who smoke.

What is happening inside varicose veins to create the problem?

Diseased veins have damaged valves and do not take blood back up to the heart efficiently. As the condition worsens, blood may start flowing in the opposite direction which is called venous reflux. Venous reflux can cause discoloration, skin breakdown, bleeding, and even ulceration. Once this happens, treatment may be more difficult. This is why it is important to intervene early in the disease process

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

Varicose veins present as swollen or bulging veins or swelling in the legs, feet or ankles. Patients may experience itching over the affected vein, and aching, heaviness or pain in the legs, particularly after sitting or standing for a long time. The skin may become scaly, dry, thinned, discolored or inflamed.

Apart from their appearance, how are varicose veins diagnosed?

Besides a careful physical examination for skin swelling, discoloration or breakdown, the severity of the condition may be diagnosed through ultrasound and angioplasty.

Are varicose veins dangerous?

In and of themselves varicose veins are not dangerous, just unsightly and perhaps uncomfortable. They may, however be an indicator of more serious vascular disease and so should be medically evaluated.

What treatment options are available to treat varicose veins?

There are several options available, depending on the severity of the condition. These options may include:

  • Home treatments, such as elevating the legs
  • Compression stockings
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Surgical stripping of veins
  • Microphlebectomy
  • Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)
  • Endovenous Radiofrequency Ablation

What happens to my circulation when the veins are removed or closed?

Once the veins are collapsed and become nonfunctional, the blood flow will be naturally redirected to healthy veins and circulation will continue uninterrupted.

Is the treatment of varicose veins or spider veins covered by insurance?

If a patient has symptomatic vein disease, most insurance companies and Medicare will cover the consultation and diagnostic ultrasound examination. If the examination reveals dysfunction of major veins, further treatment by endovenous laser is also covered by all major insurance carriers and Medicare.

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