About Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are swollen, bulging veins that protrude from the surface of the skin. They often have a blue or purplish color and rope or cord-like appearance on the skin. Varicose veins are extremely common. In fact, the condition affects up to 15 percent of men and up to 25 percent of women in the United States.
The word ‘varicose’ comes from the Latin root ‘varix’ which means twisted. While veins anywhere in the body can become varicose, those most affected by varicose veins are in the legs. The backs of calves or inside of legs are most common. This is due to the larger pressure exerted on these veins from sustained standing, walking or other factors.
While varicose veins are often unsightly and do cause cosmetic concerns, they can cause very significant symptoms and also be indicative of underlying vein disease, which may progressively get worse if not treated.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
The following are signs, symptoms and addition conditions those with varicose veins may experience:
- Blue or purple looking veins
- Leg fatigue
- Itching and burning
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Achy or painful legs
- Legs that feel heavy
- Leg throbbing
- Leg cramping
- Discoloration of skin (in the affected area)
- Spider veins in the affected area
Cause of Varicose Veins
Blood circulates through the body and the extremities via a system of arteries and veins. Arteries and veins carry blood away and back to heart the heart, respectively. To facilitate the return trip of blood towards the heart, veins typically have a series of one-way valves. As we age (and due to a series of other risk factors including heredity, pregnancy, obesity etc.), these valves can begin to fail, allowing blood to flow backwards. This often occurs as the elasticity in the vein wall weakens, the vein distends, and the valve leaflets can no longer function properly.
When this valve failure (or venous reflux) occurs in veins of the leg, the blood flows backwards (or back down the leg) and pools in the veins of the lower leg. This increased blood pressure causes the veins to bulge or swell, and may cause fluid to leak outside the vein (causing generalized swelling in the ankles and feet). Since the blood in these veins is deoxygenated, it often makes the varicose veins appear blue in color.
Without treatment, this increased pressure within the legs can progress to cause additional valve failure (causing the varicose veins to ‘grow’ up or down the leg), skin color changes, and in its worst case, non-healing venous ulcers.
Painful varicose veins can be treated with a number of safe and effective options. Only a trained vein specialist can determine the extent and severity of any vein disease you may have, so consult with a surgeon to learn more.
Varicose Vein Treatment
The most effective treatment for varicose veins and venous disease in the legs is a procedure called ablation. Ablation closes the damaged, non-functioning veins in your legs using a small IV inserted without incisions or scars. Closing these damaged veins improves your circulation as blood is rerouted to other, functioning veins.
NYC Surgical Associates specializes in several types of ablation procedures, including EVLT, VNUS closure and No-Knife Endovenous Laser.
The procedure is short and usually takes less than 20 minutes. Numbing medication is used in the procedure which makes it relatively painless.
Regular activity can resume immediately following the procedure.
Microphlebectomy or “micro”, removes bulging veins left on the leg after ablation. The procedure uses very tiny incisions, typically less than 2-3mm. Ablation is typically performed before micro because often, ablation minimizes the need for microphlebectomy by cutting off the blood supply to the bulging veins which often makes micro unnecessary.
Mild sedatives (twilight anesthesia) are available for patients who wish to avoid feeling anything during the procedure. General anesthesia is not necessary. The procedure can be performed with local anesthesia if desired.
Patients can wear compression stockings and avoid sitting or standing for long periods in order to prevent the problem from getting worse, and this can alleviate symptoms in some individuals by allowing less blood to pool in the legs.
Varicose Vein Surgery Cost
In most cases, insurance covers varicose vein treatment. In the past, insurance companies were more apt to cover the traditional treatment for vein disease — surgery. But now, most are providing coverage for minimally invasive options such as the VNUS procedure as a primary treatment and sclerotherapy as a secondary treatment. Of course, patients and their physicians need to illustrate that treatment is medically necessary. Since we are experts at treating venous disease, our staff is highly experienced in working directly with insurance companies to ensure you’re getting the treatment that’s covered. We will work with you to maximize your insurance benefits.
Our physicians use both radiofrquency ablation (VNUS procedures) and ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy to treat varicose veins.