By Lana Turnbull
With “shorts” weather just around the corner, are your legs ready to be liberated? There are a number of things you can do to make your legs shorts-ready – toning, tanning, moisturizing, even waxing, but legs with varicose or spider veins will need more than superficial fixes to be ready for spring fashions. If unattractive veins make you want to keep those gams under cover, there are some important facts you need to know.
Varicose and spider veins are a symptom of an underlying, potentially serious condition.
The veins in the legs contain one-way valves to keep blood flow moving in the right direction, despite the force of gravity. When those valves become weakened or fail, the build-up of blood, particularly in the saphenous vein (which runs from the groin to the ankle), can cause increased pressure within the veins causing them to become dilated and permanently distended. If left untreated, varicose veins can cause discomfort such as swelling, throbbing, heaviness, night cramps and long-term complications such as ulcerations, and the development of clots or bleeding.
While spider veins generally are more of a cosmetic concern, when combined with varicose veins they can also lead to uncomfortable complications such as heaviness in the legs, night cramps and itching.
Heredity is the main cause of varicose and spider veins.
While being overweight, being a woman (60% of people who suffer from varicose veins are women), pregnancy, standing for long periods and lack of exercise are factors in the development of varicose veins, the primary culprit is family history. According to Dr. Michael Manning of Mississippi Vein Institute in Madison, MS, “If one of your parents has varicose veins, you have a 50% chance of developing varicose veins. If both your parents have varicose veins, the odds are almost 100% that you will have them too.”
Are there non-surgical options for treating varicose veins?
The most conservative option for treating varicose veins is wearing compression hose. Compression hose work by improving blood flow from the legs, lessening pressure within the veins and helping to prevent congestion of the blood. Dr. Manning explains there are a couple of problems with using compression hose alone to treat your varicose veins. “First, it is difficult to stay compliant…in other words, if you don’t use the compression hose consistently, you will not get the maximum benefit,” he notes. “The more serious reason why compression hose may not be the best long-term treatment solution for varicose veins, is that it does nothing to address the underlying problem of valve failure and poor circulation in the legs – problems that can eventually become serious if left untreated.”
Are there treatment solutions for varicose veins that remove unsightly veins and treat the underlying health concern?
The most effective treatment uses laser ablation (heat) to destroy the problematic vein. Then the varicose veins near the surface of the skin are removed by a procedure called micro-phlebectomy, using tiny incisions, so small they do not require stitches. With laser ablation, because the underlying affected vein is not stripped out (as was the case with older surgical techniques), but instead simply disintegrates and is absorbed by the body, recovery time is much less. Miraculously, once the problem vein is gone and the varicose veins are removed, the body reroutes the blood through healthy veins, and normal vein pressure is restored. Most patients are able to return to normal activities within two days.
What is the most successful treatment for spider veins?
Spider veins are most effectively removed using sclerotherapy, which involves the injection of a substance into the veins that destroys them. Often, a patient will have laser ablation, micro-phlebectomy and sclerotherapy all together in one outpatient surgical appointment.
“It is important to realize that living with varicose veins not only can affect a person’s quality of life, limiting their wardrobe choices and making them avoid situations where their legs will be noticed, like swimming or enjoying the beach, the condition signals a potentially serious circulation problem,” adds Dr. Manning. “For patients that might be putting off doing anything about their varicose and spider veins because they consider such procedures, strictly cosmetic, and not really necessary to their health, I want to say, this is not a superficial problem. Left without treatment, your vein health is at risk. With the treatments that are available to us today, there is no reason for your self image or your health to suffer because of unsightly veins.”
Michael Manning, M.D., received his medical degree from the University of Mississippi. He completed an internship at Methodist Hospital in Memphis and an anesthesia residency and interventional pain residency at Wake Forrest, in Winston-Salem, NC. He is board certified in Phlebology, Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Management. In 2008, he founded the Mississippi Vein Institute in Madison, MS.
1. Keep Moving
Walk, climb stairs, and just get up and move around the office and at home. Prolonged sitting or standing may cause leg pain and swelling, so try not to stay in one place too long without a break.
2. Cool Down
After a long tiring day refresh your legs with a cool shower. Exposure to heat like sunbathing, hot baths, sauna may lead veins to dilate and induce swelling, so avoid activities that will .
3. Put Your Feet Up
To improve circulation in the legs, especially venous blood flow (back to the heart), elevate your legs while sitting on the sofa or lying in bed. At the office, have a leg rest under your desk.
4. Stay Active
Regular exercise is a must if you want to have great looking and feeling legs. Swimming, walking, biking, gymnastics, and yoga are particularly beneficial.
5. Watch Your Weight
Eating a healthy diet will help you keep a normal weight which can reduce uncomfortable and unsightly leg symptoms and swelling.