Cosmetic issues adversely affect self-esteem for many people. Varicose veins are an unsightly cosmetic issue affecting 30 percent of all adults, usually on the legs. While cosmetically unappealing, this condition can also pose further health risks. These risks should be taken seriously as they are possible indicators of deeper, underlying conditions.
Varicose veins affect both men and women in any age group, but mostly women during childbearing years and older. The health risks posed are large to the heart and vascular system but can extend into other biological systems. Certain risk factors lead to developing varicose veins although a genetic predisposition is also a major cause and factor.
Not only do varicose veins make those who have them experience social discomfort and embarrassment, they create anxiety due to fear of more serious conditions. Varicose veins can be treated to reduce visibility and even removed through various techniques. Read on to learn more about how varicose veins affect your health, methods used to remove them, and how much it costs.
How Do Varicose Veins Form?
Varicose veins are elevated, enlarged, and contorted blood vessels most commonly found in the legs. They are caused by a variety of factors, the most common being genetic predisposition. This hereditary factor makes varicose veins sometimes hard to prevent, but other causes do contribute to them forming.
Blood vessels in the legs work harder to pump blood up the body and into the heart. Sometimes valves in the blood vessels weaken or become damaged. When blood pressure in the veins increases, damaged valves cannot keep blood flowing smoothly in the proper direction. The blood, therefore, pools in the veins, causing it to contort and be stretched out. Additional causes of varicose veins include:
- Smoking and/or vaping
- Jobs requiring long periods of standing or sitting
- Using birth control pills
- Other hormonal changes
Difference Between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
There are two types of visible vein issues typically confused for one another. Varicose veins and spider veins are similar in appearance to many people who do not have accurate information. This is normal, as both vein conditions appear most often in the legs and can have blue in their coloring.
Spider (telangiectasia) veins are shaped like a spider web in the way they spread out from their source. They are smaller and thinner than varicose veins. They also appear visibly just under the skin. While mostly harmless, spider veins can be precursors to developing varicose veins in the future.
Varicose veins bulge due to the pooling of blood. They are commonly blue or a darker shade of purple, while spider veins can be blue, purple, or reddish in color. Varicose veins are also indicators of possibly more serious underlying conditions.
Not Just a Cosmetic Issue
Approximately 23 percent of people develop varicose veins to some degree. This is a cosmetic nuisance to all who have it, but a medically harmless issue for many. Unfortunately, it can possibly be an indicator of a more serious, underlying condition requiring medical attention. One of the more serious conditions is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which causes blood to flow away from the heart instead of to it. Symptoms of CVI including a discoloring of the skin, cramps, swollen skin or joints, aches, restless legs, general pain, and skin itch. There are many other potential underlying conditions indicated by varicose veins of which to be aware.
Varicose Veins and Your Heart
Many people associate vein issues with the heart. Varicose veins do not necessarily pose a direct threat to the heart, however. People with heart disease, poor circulation and other heart conditions could be at risk for painful swelling in their legs or infections around the areas containing varicose veins.
Major and Minor Health Related to Varicose Veins
Rare, minor health risks related to varicose veins include bleeding and ulcers of the skin near the veins. Superficial thrombophlebitis can also occur. This is a blood clot just beneath the skin causing irritation, pain and inflammation.
More serious health risks related to varicose veins include deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism. DVT is a blood clot located in a deeper vein, most often in the thigh or lower portion of the leg. A pulmonary embolism can be fatal. A pulmonary embolism occurs when an already-formed blood clot breaks off into the vessels and reaches the lungs. This can damage the lung in which it lodges, restricting blood flow and oxygen levels to the heart, brain and other organs.
Varicose Veins Removal Procedures
Many people opt to have varicose veins removed. There are natural, DIY treatment practices capable of being worked into a healthy lifestyle. There are also medical removal treatments available through licensed professionals.
Sclerotherapy commonly uses a saline solution, which is injected into varicose veins. Unique detergents are sometimes used in place of saline solutions. These injections result in the disappearance of the varicose veins in an average, three-to-six week period. Prices for sclerotherapy can range from $200 to $600, depending on the service providers and the severity of the condition.
Radio-frequency occlusion involves the insertion of a small catheter into individual varicose veins. It utilizes radiofrequency blasting the walls of each vein with heat. This causes the varicose vein to heat up, cave in, and be sealed. Radio frequency occlusion, like sclerotherapy, is often an outpatient procedure. This procedure is generally expensive, with average prices ranging from approximately $2,200 all the way to just under $6,000.
There are several types of surgical procedures used to remove varicose veins. Larger varicose veins typically require surgery for removal, which involves anesthesia and the use of a small camera inside the veins. Different types of procedures vary in cost but expect an average between $1,500 and $3,000. Different types of varicose vein removal surgeries include:
- Ambulatory phlebotomy
- Endoscopic vein surgery
Endogenous and Other Laser Treatments
Inserting a tiny, laser fiber, and emitting pulses of light into a varicose vein is a process called “endogenous laser treatment.” This is also an outpatient procedure done with local anesthesia. Using other lasers and intense pulled light creates heat energy used to isolate and destroy varicose veins. While painful, it also does not involve needles or sclerotherapy processes. Blisters, staining, and discoloring can occur, however. Prices for various laser treatments can range from $600 to several thousand dollars.