The veins in your body play an important role in circulation, carrying blood from your various parts of your body back to your heart. Yet, as people age, problems can develop in the veins and cause a variety of complications. In fact, one in three Americans over the age of 45 has some kind of vein disease. With this frequency, it is important to choose your vein doctor wisely.
It is crucial to select a physician who has specific training and experience in treating this problem. These physicians are board certified and understand all possibilities for leg pain. It is important to get the right diagnosis and not have an unnecessary procedure with poor results.
There are many causes for leg pain. Early symptoms may seem minor. However, they can become more serious – and even life-threatening. Chronic Venous Disease (CVD) is a common cause of leg pain and refers to other chronic conditions related to or caused by veins that become diseased or abnormal. These problems can include:
- Varicose veins and spider veins
- Leg Swelling and Leg Pain
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Leg skin changes
- Leg ulcers
- Vascular Malformations
Varicose veins are dilated, thickened, elongated and twisted blood vessels that don’t control blood flow as they should. In some cases, they can be small spider veins and even appear thread-like. In other cases, they may appear as large grape-like clusters under the skin.
- Aching pain
- Easily tired legs
- Leg heaviness
- Swelling in the legs
- Darkening of the skin (in severe cases)
- Numbness in the legs
- Itching or irritated rash on the legs
Varicose veins occur more often in women than men, especially during pregnancy (starting in the first trimester), during the last 14 days of the menstrual cycle, and in people who have a job for which they must stand for long periods of time. With age, these changes from younger days, become more pronounced.
There are several procedures that can be used alone or in combination to treat varicose veins. These include:
- Sclerotherapy, in which a doctor injects the veins with a solution that causes the vein to close and the blood is then directed through healthier veins. This is a common treatment option but may require multiple treatments. It is useful for treating small and medium-sized varicose veins.
- Micro sclerotherapy, which is similar to sclerotherapy, but uses different solutions and injection techniques. It is especially effective in treating spider veins.
- Laser surgery, in which the heat from a laser beam destroys spider vein but does not harm the skin. It is usually less effective than sclerotherapy for varicose veins in the legs. It also causes side effects, such as bruising, blistering and discoloration.
- Endovenous thermal ablation, in which a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into the vein. Then, the surgeon applies heat through the tube, causing the vein to collapse. A scar results and the blood is forced through nearby healthy veins. This procedure is also used to treat larger varicose veins.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy, in which the doctor removes larger varicose veins in the legs through a series of tiny skin punctures (holes). Local anesthesia is used. There is usually little scarring.
It is paramount that your surgeon be trained in all aspects of leg pain with a special interest in vein and vascular disease. You choose your doctor. Choose wisely.
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Ellis A. Tinsley, Jr., MD, FACS is board certified in Vascular and General Surgery. He has been performing vein procedures for over 25 years. He attended Davidson College and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He is a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He has been listed on the Best Doctors in North Carolina list in the North Carolina Business Journal since 2003.