Veins are there to regulate blood flow from all our organs to our heart and back. They transport oxygen and nutrients to the organs and in return take waste and carbon dioxide away from the organs to be excreted for example by the lungs.
Veins and varicose veins also act as storage for unused blood. When our bodies are at rest some blood remains stationary in the veins, and as we become more active our blood circulation increases carrying additional nutrients and oxygen to the systems where they are needed most. Storage capacity is dependent on the elasticity of the vein, which is the capacity of the vein walls to expand and return to its shape.
The varicose vein size is dependent on its function and where they are found in the body. Our largest veins are found in the center of our bodies and they serve as main branches to collect blood from smaller vessels. Smaller vessels go through organs, tissue, muscles and eventually feed the largest organ like our skin. Here they will be most superficial and can be seen through the skin. Perforating vessels connect superficial vessels to our large vessels.
“Varicose and spider veins are more common in women than in men. They increase in occurrence and size as we grow older and it is said that 30-60% of adults have one or either both of these vein types.”
Varicose veins are seen as blue raised, large and swollen vessels, which develop in the legs and ankles and will be seen through the skin. Spider veins are smaller, red, purple and blue vessels and will also be visible through the surface of the skin but commonly seen on the face and legs. They may look like short or fine lines or seen as clusters or a network, known as telangiectasia as as opposed to bulging varicose veins.
Weakened valves and veins, in your legs, cause the unsightly varicose vein appearance. Usually a one-way valve ensures blood flow from your legs to your heart. When these valves start working improperly, the blood collects in your legs and builds up pressure causing the veins to become enlarged, weak and twisted. Other types are also called broken capillaries or spider veins.
Why do varicose veins usually appear on the legs?
This is due to the pressure of body weight, force of gravity and the normal blood flow that has to carry blood from the lower part of the body to the heart. Varicose veins have to do the hardest work and due to pressure build up. This results in varicose and spider veins in the legs.
Risk factors for varicose and spider veins:
- Occupations that involve a lot of standing like nursing, hairdressers, therapists, doctors, factory workers, teachers etc can lead to varicose veins
- Heredity factors can lead to varicose veins
- Obesity/weight gain can lead to varicose veins
- Hormonal influences like puberty, pregnancy and menopause in women can lead to varicose veins
- History of blood clots.
- Postmenopausal Hormonal Replacement Therapy
- The use of birth control methods/pills can lead to varicose veins
- Other common causes are trauma or injury to the skin, previous vein surgery or therapy and excess exposure to ultraviolet rays.
- Sedentary lifestyles can lead to varicose veins
Less common causes of varicose veins:
- Phlebitis – inflammation of varicose veins.
- Blood clots or obstruction to the blood flow that causes a buildup in pressure, known as Thrombosis.
- Congenital abnormalities of an individual’s veins.
- Venous disease – disease of the varicose veins that is usually progressive.
How can Varicose veins be prevented?
- Compression stockings improve blood circulation and prevent pressure build up in the varicose vein.
- Regular exercising and to avoid long periods of standing or sitting may also prevent leg veins to develop and increase blood flow though out the body.
- Maintaining a normal weight.
Potential treatment options for leg and Varicose veins, depending on the location and size:
- Elevation of the legs while sitting/sleeping
- Compression with the correct type of stockings prescribed by your doctor.
- Ablation of abnormal veins using a laser.
- Surgery for larger and inflamed vessels.
The most common treatment options include laser therapies.
In severe cases where large veins do not respond to above mentioned treatments, especially if they are associated with dermatitis and ulcers they will need further more invasive treatments for medical purposes.
Laser treatment as the most general treatment option for leg veins and Varicose Veins:
Laser therapy applies an intense and focused energy to the vessel, destroying the smaller vessels closer to the skin’s surface while not harming the superficial skin, tissue and varicose veins. When the varicose vein is coagulated from the laser energy, the body breaks it down and reabsorbs the damaged vessel within a period of 4 to 6 weeks. Multiple varicose vein treatments are required and this is also dependent on the area size and location.
After the procedure there might be a bit of swelling on the area treated, which will disappear after a few hours. It may appear slightly red and bruising is to expected as the vessel breaks down and some blood escapes. These “side-effects” usually only last for a couple of days to a week, but does differ person to person.
The next varicose vein treatment may be performed on the same area on any remaining veins after 4 weeks. If there is still some bruising, the treatment will need to be postponed until the area has healed completely.
Precautions after laser therapy for leg and varicose veins:
- Keep out of the sun and avoid exposure on the area being treated for at least one week.
- Avoid exercise for 2 days to avoid increased blood flow that may affect the varicose vein treatment outcome.
- Also avoid saunas and hot baths for about 2 days post treatment.
Contact Dermology for your consultation where we can advise and explain according to your specific need.