- What are varicose veins?
- What are spider veins?
- What is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)?
- Who is at risk for CVI?
- Can varicose veins and CVI be prevented?
- What can happen if I overlook my varicose veins and symptoms of CVI?
- How can I treat varicose veins or CVI?
- Can I get screened for varicose veins and CVI?
- How can I tell if I have CVI?
- My family physician told me that I should not worry about my varicose veins; is this true?
- What can I do if someone I know appears to have varicose veins or is at risk for CVI?
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be blue, red or flesh colored. They are often raised above the skin on legs and look like twisted bulging cords. Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins that regulate blood flow direction from the legs toward the heart no longer function, causing blood to pool. Often misunderstood as a cosmetic issue, varicose veins can sometimes progress to CVI, which is a more serious condition.1
What are spider veins?
Spider veins, which often cover the legs, are damaged veins that appear to be similar to varicose veins, only thinner. Appearing red or blue in color and like thin spider webs or branches, these veins are closer to the surface of the skin and can spread over a range of areas. Unlike varicose veins, spider veins are typically not raised above the skin’s surface. Spider veins can be treated with sclerotherapy or laser treatment. Though spider veins may be associated with varicose veins or CVI, the issue is seen as cosmetic and treatment is generally regarded as elective.9
What is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)?
CVI is a progressive medical condition in which the valves that regulate blood flow direction from the legs to the heart no longer function, causing blood to pool in the legs and veins to swell. Healthy leg veins are designed to allow blood to flow against gravity from the legs back toward the heart. Tiny valves inside the veins open and close to help control the flow and pressure. CVI occurs when stresses on the venous system – like pregnancy, age or standing for long periods of time2 – weaken the vein structure. When the veins become weakened or diseased, vein valves no longer promote efficient blood flow and blood pools in the legs. This impaired blood flow (or reflux) causes veins to expand, lose form and protrude from beneath the skin.
Who is at risk for CVI?2
While CVI can affect anyone, gender and age are large factors that may increase your risk for developing the disease. For example, women older than 50 are more likely than others to develop venous disease that can lead to CVI. The disease can affect several members of the same family. Additionally, the following factors may increase your risk for developing varicose veins that can sometimes progress into CVI:
- Lack of exercise
- Lifestyle that requires standing for long periods of time
- Excess weight
- Current or previous pregnancies
Can varicose veins and CVI be prevented?
For mild forms of venous disease, lifestyle changes may be recommended to control existing symptoms and prevent others. The following measures may help control varicose veins and CVI:3
- Manage blood pressure and body weight
- Exercise regularly, focusing on exercises that work your legs (run or walk)
- Elevate your legs whenever possible
- Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
- Avoid clothes that are tight around the waist, thighs or legs
- Strengthen calf muscles and avoid shoes that limit use of calf muscles (i.e., high heels)
- Eat a diet low in salt and rich in high-fiber foods
Since varicose veins cannot always be prevented, it is important to talk to a vein specialist about treatment options before the condition progresses into CVI or symptoms worsen.
What can happen if I overlook my varicose veins and symptoms of CVI?
Treatments for diseased veins can be effective in eliminating the varicose veins and symptoms of CVI, and also preventing the condition from progressing. If left untreated, varicose veins can sometimes progress to become CVI, a more serious form of venous disease1 that may present increasingly severe signs and symptoms over time. Those symptoms can include ankle swelling, fatigue, restlessness and pain of the legs, skin damage and ulcers.2
How can I treat varicose veins or CVI?
Fortunately, varicose veins and CVI can be treated. The VenefitTM procedure is a minimally-invasive treatment that uses radiofrequency ablation (heat) to seal off the problem vein so blood gets re-routed to other veins. Indicated for endovascular coagulation of blood vessels in patients with superficial reflux, the VenefitTM procedure allows for a short, comfortable recovery and a quick return to everyday activities.11, 12
Can I get screened for varicose veins and CVI?
Yes, screening for CVI is done through a simple non-invasive ultrasound test conducted by a vein specialist. A simple self-assessment can tell you if you should consider visiting a vein specialist for screening.
How can I tell if I have CVI?
If you think that you are suffering from varicose veins, or more serious symptoms like swelling and pain in your legs that may be indicative of CVI, take the self-assessment to see if you should find a vein specialist to discuss screening and treatment. Only a healthcare professional can diagnose varicose veins and CVI.
My family physician told me that I should not worry about my varicose veins; is this true?
All varicose veins have the potential to progress to become CVI, but not all varicose veins result in CVI. Many physicians discouraged treatment when vein stripping was the only option available. However, with minimally-invasive treatments such as the VenefitTM procedure currently available, anyone with varicose veins should consult a vein specialist to receive proper diagnosis.
What can I do if someone I know appears to have varicose veins or is at risk for CVI?
Because varicose veins and CVI present recognizable signs and symptoms and can be triggered by lifestyle and genetic factors2, you can spread the word to those who might be at risk. Encourage them check out this website, take the self-assessment and utilize the Find a Doctor tool.