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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are varicose veins?

The term 'varicose veins' is often used to describe everything from smaller, spider veins (red or blue veins on the surface of the skin) up to true varicose veins (swollen, bulging veins with a rope-like appearance). Varicose veins are quite common with up to 15% of men and 25% of women being affected. Varicose vein symptoms can include swelling, a tired, heavy feeling, leg fatigue, leg pain, as well as burning and itching sensations.

What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins are almost always associated with venous reflux. This occurs when the valves in the leg veins donít work well, and backward blood flow causes pooling in the lower leg. Without treatment, the pressure this creates may increase over time and cause additional varicose veins and symptoms. People with a family history and who are older, obese or are pregnant may be at increased risk of developing varicose veins.

Can varicose veins be prevented?

It is unclear if varicose veins can be prevented, but certain actions may help limit the diseaseís progression and symptoms. Routine exercise, maintaining a normal weight, avoiding excessively long periods of standing or sitting, and the use of compression stockings may all help alleviate symptoms.

What happens if I donít treat the vein?

If you have underlying venous disease (e.g., venous reflux), the pressure created by backflow of blood and pooling in the lower legs may create a progressive condition that only gets worse with time. This may lead to additional spider veins and varicose veins, and in some cases can lead to swelling and venous ulcers at the lower calf and ankle. Only a trained vein specialist can effectively evaluate your spider veins or varicose veins.

Will my spider veins or varicose veins reoccur, even with treatment?

Sometimes the same factors that helped to cause your first spider veins or varicose veins (e.g., family history, age, obesity, female hormones, etc.) will make you predisposed to develop additional vein conditions. If a specific vein is properly treated, it usually does not recur, but it is possible that other veins may become diseased. This is why it is important that even if you have what appear to be simple, cosmetic spider veins, that you consult a vein specialist who can determine if you have an underlying condition (venous reflux). If you do, and you donít treat the cause of the problem, additional spider veins or varicose veins are likely to develop.

Wonít I need that vein?

Procedures like sclerotherapy, EVLT and Closure act to close down a faulty vein. The vein being closed is dysfunctional and is allowing blood to flow backwards and pool, so leaving it open only makes things worse. The body contains numerous other healthy veins that are still functional and can easily take up the additional flow. Treatment of the faulty veins almost always results in improved blood flow in the overall vein system.

What is the cost of vein treatment?

Procedures like EVLT, Closure and vein stripping, when shown to be medically necessary, are commonly covered by Medicare and insurance providers. Sclerotherapy for spider veins is generally considered a cosmetic procedure and usually not covered. Consult your local insurance provider to determine your exact eligibility and coverage as well as cost.

Which doctors treat varicose veins?

There is a newer physician specialty called phlebology which focuses on vein treatment. This specialty has its own society (American College of Phlebology), provides board certification and specialty training. Consult with your individual physician to determine whether they have any such specialty training or certification.

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