What are varicose veins and spider veins?
While arteries carry blood from the heart to the tissue capilaries, veins are blood vessels that return blood to the heart. In the legs, the deep veins are the main route for venous return, but superficial veins are present as well. The superficial veins are redundant and are sometimes harvested fro use in bypass surgery. Veins have valaves oriented such that as leg muscles contract, blood flows only toward the heart. These valves can become incompetenet, causing blood to pool at high pressure in the superficial veins (“reflux”), stretching them and causing further valve incompetence.
The cause of failure of the valves may be hereditary. Hormonal influences contribute – vein disorders are more common in females and particularly associated with pregnancy.
Varicose veins and spider veins arise as prominent veins just beneath the skin. While varicose veins can produce bulging deformity with standing, spider veins typically appear as blue or purple streaks or nests. Both are manifestations of the same problem – congested venous blood in dilated veins cause by non-functioning venous valves.
Approximately half of all adult Americans are affected by varicose and spider veins.
Are varicose veins serious?
In many people, varicose and spider veins cause no symptoms. Pain, throbbing, and heaviness frequently accompany varicose veins, and these complaints are typically exacerbated by standing. Serious complications such as phlebitis (blood clots) are less common. Occasionally patients develop thinning or inflammation of the skin overlying large varicose veins.
However, the most common complaint is the unsightly appearance of abnormal veins.
How are varicose veins diagnosed?
Patients usually notice the protruding veins or discoloration even before the symptoms occur. As board-certified vascular surgeons, the physicians at Society Hill Vein Center are experienced in evaluating abnormal veins. The Registered Vascular Technologists in our ISCAVL-accredited vascular laboratory utilize color-duplex ultrasound to provide a precise map of the venous system, with particular attention to identifying the location and extent of venous reflux, which usually guides treatment options.