The highly visible, blue varicose blood vessels on the thighs, legs and ankles of women and men are unsightly and a cause of concern in most people who have them. Most of the persons having them feel very self-conscious. Many woman with visible varicose veins, spider veins or sunburst varicosities even refuse to wear shorts and many haven t worn shorts for years. Remarkably, some of these women are less than twenty-five years old.
The blue vessels are at best cosmetically annoying and unattractive; they are at worst disfiguring. While the vessels occur in men as well as women, they occur less frequently in men, and in men are somewhat disguised by the hair on men s legs. These spider veins are small vessels whose walls have lost their elasticity. They are then left carrying slow moving deoxygenated blood. In other words, they re serving no useful function for the skin or any other tissues in your legs.
The causes for these vessels are many, and in any given person, more than one factor may be playing a role in causing varicose and spider veins. The major factors causing varicose veins on the legs are:
Genetic: In these cases, there is usually a strong family history, including an affected mother, sister(s) and/or daughter(s).
Hormonal:There is frequently a worsening during times of heightened estrogen levels, as during pregnancy, during adolescence, or while taking some estrogen-containing medication (such as birth control pills).
Physical trauma:There is usually a history of a well remembered blow, or fall, or cut, or surgical procedure at or near the affected sight.
Other factors are known as causes, but are much less commonly associated with the veins than the three factors listed above.
Because these vessels are such a nuisance, many different techniques have been developed through the years in order to eliminate them. The most popular, most safe and cost effective method of treating varicose and spider veins is sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy, injection of sclerosing solutions, has been use by thousands of doctors around the world for more than 50 years. Other techniques tried on the legs have been electrosurgery and laser surgery. While electrosurgery and lasers work nicely on facial vessels, sclerotherapy has proven to be the best treatment for varicose and spider veins on the legs. Electrosurgery causes an unacceptable amount of visible scarring. While scarring can occur with sclerotherapy, it happens rarely, and if it does occur, it is usually only at the injection sight. Pulsed-dye lasers may be helpful to reach those vessels that are too small to be injected. But laser treatment is very expensive and result are often equal to what can be accomplished with sclerotherapy.
Vessels from less than 1/2mm to as large as 10mm can be treated. Pressure over the larger vessels after sclerotherapy causes them to respond better to treatment. Larger vessels can also be treated, but may need surgery, and vascular studies prior to treatment.
Side effects are uncommon. They include brown spots or small crusts or ulcerations at the injection sights. If a brown streak occurs along the course of the treated vessel, it will fade without treatment. Some vessels may require three to six treatments before responding completely. Ankles frequently swell for a few days after they are treated. Thrombophlebitis of the treated vessel occasionally occurs. It s always superficial and responds well to aspirin (or other similar anti-inflammatory drugs), heat and antibiotics (infrequently needed). Infrequently tiny new vessels develop at treatment sights. They are treated the same way the original vessels were. Rarely, an ulcer may need to be excised in order to speed-up healing.