What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins, also known as venous insufficiency, is a condition that prevents blood from flowing out of your legs and back to your heart. Veins contain valves that help blood flow in one direction. Venous insufficiency means the valves do not close correctly or fully. Blood flows back and pools in your leg. This can cause problems such as varicose veins. Venous insufficiency may also be called chronic venous insufficiency or venous stasis.
What are the risks for varicose veins?
- A leg injury or blood clot
- Being a woman
- Older age
- A family history of varicose veins
- Smoking cigarettes
- Obesity, or not getting enough exercise
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
What are the signs and symptoms of varicose veins?
- Visible veins on your legs that may be small and red or large, thick, and blue
- Swelling in your ankles or calves
- Changes in skin color, such as dark or purple skin
- An ulcer (open sore) on your leg
- Leg pain that is worse when you are menstruating (women) or when you stand, and better when you elevate your legs
- Burning or itching
- Cramps that happen at night
- Thick, hard skin on your legs and ankles
- Feeling of heaviness in your legs
How are varicose veins diagnosed?
- Venous duplex imaging is a procedure used to examine the blood flow through veins. A gel will be applied to your legs. Your healthcare provider will slide a small device called a transducer across the veins. The transducer is a microphone that helps your healthcare provider hear blood moving through the vein.
- Contrast venography is a procedure used to show the veins on X-ray pictures. A catheter is guided into the vein. Contrast liquid is injected into the catheter to help the veins show up better in the pictures. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
- Plethysmography is a procedure that may be used to find changes in blood pressure through your veins. You will wear a blood pressure cuff on your leg. Changes in pressure and the amount of blood that can circulate through your leg veins are measured. Pressures are measured while you stand, sit, and lift your leg.
How are varicose veins treated?
North Memorial Health Heart & Vascular offers vascular ultrasound screening for customers experiencing symptomatic varicose veins or venous insufficiency. If treatment is recommended, our intervention cardiologists use the latest technology known as Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT). This procedure may be complimented with sclerotherapy and/or microphlebectomy.
North Memorial Health uses laser therapy to eliminate varicose veins where they start. In laser vein treatment, a thin fiber is inserted into the damaged vein. A laser light is emitted through the fiber, delivering just the right amount of energy. The targeted tissue reacts with the light energy, causing the vein to close and seal shut. The veins that are closed off are superficial veins that handle less than 5 percent of your blood flow. The blood is automatically routed to other veins.
Preparing for Care
What do I need to consider when talking to my provider about endovenous laser treatment?
Talk to your healthcare provider to understand the benefits and risks of endovenous laser treatment.