Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
If the valves of the veins don’t function well, blood doesn’t flow efficiently, and the veins become enlarged because they are congested with blood. These enlarged veins are commonly called spider veins or varicose veins. Spider veins are small red, blue or purple veins on the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are larger, distended veins that are located somewhat deeper than spider veins.
- Leg cramps
- Restless leg syndrome
- Family History
- Prolonged Sitting or Standing
- Previous blood clot (DVT)
To understand the causes of venous disorders, you have to start with the circulatory system. Our circulatory system is made up of two separate parts: arteries that take the blood from the heart to all the tissues in our bodies and veins that return the blood back to our heart. The arteries benefit from gravity, which pulls the blood downward from our heart, whereas the veins have to generate their own pumping action to resist gravity and move the blood back up to our heart. To move the blood in this way, our veins are arranged in two layers: deep veins that run vertically within our muscles and superficial veins that are arranged as a network of thousands of vessels. When the veins are unable to pump blood properly, blood begins to pool in our veins instead of moving upward toward our heart. This pooling is what leads to the appearance of spider and varicose veins and is responsible for the more serious symptoms of leg pain, leg swelling, and blood clotting.
What to Expect from Your Visit
Your initial evaluation for vein treatment will vary slightly from physician to physician, but generally, it will include three components: a clinical history, a physical examination, and a discussion about your treatment expectations and concerns. When seeking treatment for venous disorders, it is important to remember that vein disease is a lifelong problem that cannot be cured with a single procedure or treatment. Cosmetic reduction in visibility of spider and varicose veins is very possible, however most patients will continue to develop new spider veins throughout their lives.
Because genetics plays a large role in vein disease, gathering a comprehensive medical history is an important part of your evaluation. Generally, the office staff will gather demographic data and initiate a patient chart for you. This chart may include financial and insurance information as well as a privacy disclosure. Information on your past medical history is typically gathered at this point, and often you will be asked about the vein problems you are currently experiencing.
When meeting in private with the physician or their staff, you may be asked more in depth questions regarding your and your family’s medical history.
The specialist will ask you about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and conduct an examination. After carefully examining your legs, the physician may also examine your abdomen or pelvis to search for other abnormal veins. You may wish to bring loose-fitting (baggy) shorts with you to the physician’s office, and ask the staff if it would be appropriate for you to change into them once in the exam room.
After the initial exam is complete, your physician may decide that further testing is in order. These tests often include duplex ultrasound and/or Doppler exams of the legs. These non-invasive procedures use sound waves to evaluate the function of the valves in the veins of the leg. These tests are very important in diagnosis, and can improve the effectiveness of any treatment.
At this point, your physician will discuss your treatment expectations and options with you. You should feel free to ask any questions about costs, complications, and potential benefits as well as side effects of treatment. You should also feel free to question your physician about their qualifications, training, background, and the number of previous procedures performed of the type they are suggesting.