While plenty of people love to put on a pair of short shorts in the summer or go bare legged in a skirt or dress, if you are dealing with visible veins, such as varicose veins, you might find that you prefer the cold days of winter, when covering up in pants or tights is the norm and there’s no pressure. Although often thought of as just a cosmetic issue, untreated varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort.
If you’re tired of feeling embarrassed about your legs or long to wear shorts or miniskirts once again, there are ways to take care of visible veins. Don’t wait till spring or summer, though. Winter is an ideal time for vein treatment.
Your circulatory system is made up of a number of different types of blood vessels. Arteries transport blood from your heart to various tissues of the body, while veins transport the blood from the various organs and tissues of your body back to your heart. Veins often have an uphill battle when it comes to getting the blood back to the heart. The blood that flows in the veins in your legs, for example, has to work against the force of gravity to reach the heart.
Valves on the veins help them get the blood to the heart, working against gravity. When your veins are normal or healthy, the valves work as they should and properly push the blood upwards. But, if the valves are weak, the blood leaks back downward, causing the veins to swell or become enlarged. Weak valves or valves that aren’t functioning the way they should cause varicose veins.
What Contributes to Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are pretty common, affecting about half of the adult population. A few factors can increase your chances of developing the veins. One contributing factor is often age. Just like your skin ages and begins to sag or develop wrinkles, your veins age and are no longer able to function as they once did.
Another factor is pregnancy. When you are pregnant, your body has a greater volume of blood. Although there’s more blood during pregnancy, your body isn’t able to circulate it as well as it could before. That, combined with pressure from the fetus, often causes varicose veins. Usually, the veins return to normal after birth.
Other factors that can cause varicose veins include being overweight or obese, hormonal changes, and being sedentary. The extra weight a person carries when he or she is overweight puts added pressure on the veins. When a person doesn’t move a lot or get much exercise, the veins don’t function as well as they should.
Some people see an improvement in their varicose veins when they lose weight, start exercising more, or make other small changes. Wearing compression hose can also help some people cope with varicose veins.
If at-home treatments aren’t effective, a number of minimally invasive medical treatments are available. Usually, varicose vein treatments involve using lasers or chemicals to correct the issue. In some instances, a laser treatment might be combined with ambulatory surgery to produce the best results.
One laser treatment option is endovenous laser treatment. EVLT is often used to treat patients with severe cases of varicose veins. During the treatment, the surgeon places a catheter in the vein. At the end of the catheter is a laser device, which heats the vein from the inside. The laser energy causes the vein to collapse. Wearing a compression stocking after the treatment helps improve results.
In some cases, EVLT is combined with ambulatory phlebectomy, or removal of several, small veins. The treatment is usually performed with a local anesthetic and only small incisions are made, which reduces healing time considerably.
Another treatment, sclerotherapy, uses a chemical injection to destroy veins. The chemical causes swelling in the treated veins, which then collapse. Sclerotherapy is also used to treat spider veins, which are small, visible veins just beneath the surface of the skin.
Getting Ready for Treatment
Most likely, your surgeon will give you specific instructions on ways to prepare for either EVLT or sclerotherapy. Usually, it’s recommended that you avoid shaving the area to be treated for at least a few days before treatment. The day of the treatment, your surgeon will most likely ask you to avoid putting any skincare products on the area.
Some people might need to make changes to their habits or lifestyle several weeks before a treatment. Since smoking affects blood circulation, you’ll more likely than not be told to quit at least two weeks before EVLT or other treatment. If you have certain medical conditions or are on any medication, it’s a good idea to tell your surgeon. EVLT isn’t recommended for everyone, and a medical issue might prevent you from undergoing it.
Varicose veins don’t have to get in the way of your life or cause you discomfort. Dr. George Bitar and Dr. Robert Centeno, at the Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in the Washington, DC area, are happy to help you overcome your vein problems. To learn more about treatment options, contact their practice for a consultation today at (703) 206-0506.
George Bitar, MD, FACS is an award-winning, board-certified cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon, the Founder and Medical Director of Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Virginia. He specializes in the latest surgical and minimally invasive techniques to scar management and reduction. Dr. Bitar is involved in groundbreaking research and education in plastic surgery and has authored numerous articles, abstracts, and chapters.