What can I do about spider veins?
Robert Hanna, MD, is an interventional radiologist at Banner Desert Medical Center.
Question: The veins in my legs make me happy it is winter and I can cover them up. What causes varicose and spider veins? Are they treatable?
Answer: Varicose and spider veins often occur when the valves in the veins do not function properly. Because veins return blood from the feet back to the heart, they contain valves within them which help blood to return to the heart and not fall back toward the feet from gravity. When the valves stop working, the blood then backs up, collects in the legs and feet, and the veins containing that blood start to enlarge.
Many times, the varicose and spider veins are genetically driven by people with a propensity to have valves which do not function properly. It is the most common reason people develop these abnormal veins in the legs. However, pregnancy, previous blood clots of the legs, obesity, standing for long periods of time and soaking in hot water could make the condition worse. Many ask about crossing one’s legs as a contributing factor, but this is unlikely. Both men and women experience this common problem.
People choose to treat veins in their legs for a variety of reasons - from pain and swelling to cosmetic reasons. Depending on the individual case, veins may be treated through one of two means. One of these methods is sclerotherapy, which is an effective method that involves injections of a solution, using very fine needles, into the problematic veins which cause them to collapse and pain to resolve to resolve with time. In other cases, interventional radiologists may choose to use lasers or radiofrequency ablation therapy. These treatments are particularly effective for rope-like, painful varicose veins.
At times, ultrasound may be recommended for help in diagnosis of reflux, or pooling of blood, in the veins. In all cases, pressure stockings are recommended for 1-2 weeks following treatment. The pressure from the stockings helps the diseased veins to shrink and collapse, giving the best possible result (for this reason, winter is a great time to seek treatment).
When medical issues are identified, insurance often covers the cost of this procedure. Treatment time is about one hour, pain is minimal and most can return to work the same day or the next day.