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Varicose and spider veins are enlarged veins that are visible through the surface of the skin. Not only are they unsightly and a common cosmetic complaint, but they can also cause physical discomfort and pain. Varicose veins, which are most commonly found on the back of calves, thighs, and inside of the legs, are blue, red, or flesh-colored, and often look like twisted or bulging cords under the skin. Spider veins are smaller and closer to the surface of the skin. They are red or blue, with a fine, jagged appearance, somewhat resembling a spider web. They are typically found on the face, legs, and thighs.
Causes and Physical Symptoms
The veins in our bodies contain valves, which help control the flow of blood in our body, and ensure that it does not flow backwards. Varicose veins are caused by weak or damaged valves. When the valves become weak, the blood may flow backwards into the veins. If the blood collects and enlarges the vein, it becomes known as a varicose vein.
Varicose veins can often visually apparent, but they also may have some physical symptoms, including throbbing, cramping, aching pain that tends to get worse after sitting or standing, a feeling of heaviness, swelling, restless legs, and occasionally darkened skin. About 50% of people over 50 years old suffer from varicose veins. Due to the associated physical discomfort, it is not only for cosmetic reasons that patients seek to treat their varicose veins.
Spider veins are caused by a backup of blood, and can be a result of many factors. Spider veins and varicose veins share many of the same risk factors. Factors include gender (women tend to develop more spider veins than men), age, genetics, obesity, hormonal changes (especially during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause), hormone therapy (including birth control), sun exposure, history of blood clots, obesity, trauma to the skin, and occupations or hobbies that require sitting or standing for long periods of time. Spider veins do not usually pose a serious health risk, but they can cause discomfort, itching, or burning, especially in the legs.
If your varicose or spider veins are causing physical discomfort or making you self-conscious, you should see a qualified doctor, like Dr. Daniel Behroozan, to discuss treatment options that will reduce the pain and improve your appearance. There are also lifestyle changes that may help improve your condition, which your doctor can discuss with you as well.
The most common treatment for both spider and varicose veins is sclerotherapy. This type of treatment has been in use for over 150 years and resolves the actual problem, rather than just addressing its physical appearance. During sclerotherapy, your doctor will inject a solution directly into the damaged vein. This solution causes the vein to shrink and close the feeder veins that are causing the spider or varicose veins to form. Anesthesia is not required during the procedure. The patient can resume normal activities immediately afterwards, but will be asked to wear compression stockings to reduce swelling and aid in healing.
Laser leg vein removal is a laser therapy that can be used to treat spider veins and smaller varicose veins. Laser therapy tends show results faster than sclerotherapy, but it cannot be used on certain skin types and is not effective on all types of varicose veins. After examining your veins, Dr. Behroozan will be able to determine if laser therapy will be helpful in treating your spider or varicose veins. V-Beam is another laser therapy that can eliminate facial and leg veins.
During your consultation with Dr. Behroozan, he will examine your veins and review your medical history. Afterwards, he will be able to make a recommendation for the therapy that will best resolve your complaints. Whether you use the age-old technique of sclerotherapy or a newer laser treatment, you can be assured that you’ll get the results you desire at the Dermatology Institute of Southern California.