Varicose Vein Treatment in Glen Mills, PA
Understanding Vein Disease: Superficial Venous Reflux
Venous insufficiency is a very common condition in which “one-way” valves within the veins of the legs do not function properly. Valves are flap-like structures whose sole purpose is to aid in the return of blood from the legs back to the heart. When these valves become diseased, they do not close effectively, which allows blood to travel in the wrong direction. This results in an abnormal accumulation of blood within the calf and ankle. Such backward flow is known as reflux and contributes to the formation of elongated, rope-like varicose veins which can be unsightly and uncomfortable.
In addition, pressure within the veins becomes elevated, affecting the overall health of the tissue and skin, which can result in color changes (pigmentation) or skin breakdown (ulceration). A common cause of varicose veins in the legs is reflux within a thigh vein called the great saphenous vein, which often causes varicose veins within the inner calf, as seen below.
How Common are Varicose Veins?
Venous disease of the legs is one of the most common conditions affecting people of all races.
- Approximately half of the population of the United States suffers from venous disease (50-55% of women and 40-45% of men). Of these, 20-50% of the women and 10-15% of the men will have visible varicose veins
- Varicose veins affects 1 out of 2 individuals age 50 and older and 15-25% of all adults
Risk Factors of Varicose Veins
- Family history of venous insufficiency
- Female gender
- Occupations requiring prolonged periods of standing
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Symptoms caused by venous insufficiency and varicose veins include aching vein pain and heaviness in the legs. Often, a person suffering from venous insufficiency will complain of tiredness of the legs, restless legs, and severe cramps (“Charley Horses”). These symptoms will typically worsen with prolonged periods of standing and improve with leg elevation.
Unfortunately, this condition usually worsens in an exponential fashion and can have a profound effect on one’s quality of life. If allowed to progress, the pooling of blood and increased pressure within the leg veins can lead to leg swelling, dryness of the skin, and discoloration that can be permanent. In severe cases, venous insufficiency can deprive the skin of oxygen, leading to skin breakdown and ulceration. In some cases, those suffering from venous insufficiency may not have any visible abnormalities, but instead simply have generalized leg discomfort, early fatigue, restlessness, and/or cramps.
People who have venous insufficiency can have symptoms even without visible varicose veins. The symptoms are caused by pressure on nerves by dilated veins.
Content materials provided with permission from the Society for Interventional Radiology. For more information, please visit their web site at www.sirweb.org.