Varicose veins are a common medical condition affecting both men and women. They appear as enlarged, twisted veins that often bulge above the skin’s surface on the legs, ankles, and feet. While these bothersome and unsightly veins are often perceived as a cosmetic issue, they can lead to potential complications that should not be ignored. Treatment options such as sclerotherapy can effectively manage varicose veins, reducing symptoms and helping to improve your overall health. If you experience concerning symptoms or wish to explore treatment options, consult with a skilled DFW podiatrist who can provide personalized guidance and appropriate medical interventions.
Understanding Varicose Veins and Their Complications
You have small valves in your veins that open to let blood flow to your heart; they close to stop the blood from flowing backward. If these valves weaken and allow blood to flow in reverse, the blood can pool in your veins and enlarge them. Possible causes of varicose veins include heredity, aging, obesity, circulatory problems, and standing for extended periods of time.
Although for many, varicose veins are considered a cosmetic concern that do not warrant treatment, some people with varicose veins have complications ranging from discomfort and pain to serious medical conditions.
Potential Complications of Varicose Veins
- Pain and discomfort. One of the primary complications of varicose veins is pain and discomfort. The enlarged and twisted veins can cause aching, throbbing, and a heavy sensation in the legs. Prolonged standing or sitting can exacerbate these symptoms, making daily activities challenging and affecting the overall quality of life.
- Venous ulcers. One of the most severe complications of varicose veins is the development of venous ulcers. These are open sores that form on the skin due to poor blood circulation and increased pressure in the affected veins. Venous ulcers often develop near the ankles and can be painful, slow-healing wounds that require prompt medical intervention.
- Deep vein thrombosis. Although rare, varicose veins can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT develops when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs, obstructing blood flow. If the clot breaks free and travels to the lungs, it can cause a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. Symptoms of DVT include swelling, pain, warmth, and redness in the affected area.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis. Superficial thrombophlebitis refers to the inflammation and blood clot formation in a superficial vein, often near varicose veins. It presents as a painful, red, and tender area along the course of the affected vein. While it is usually a self-limiting condition, it can cause discomfort and may require medical intervention if the clot extends into deeper veins.
- Bleeding. Varicose veins can become fragile and prone to bleeding, particularly when injured or scratched. Although the bleeding is usually minimal, it can be alarming and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
- Chronic leg swelling. Persistent swelling in the legs can be a sign of venous insufficiency, a condition caused by malfunctioning valves in the veins. This can lead to increased fluid retention in the legs, resulting in discomfort, heaviness, and an increased risk of infection.
When to Seek Help From a Texas Podiatrist
Seeking professional care for varicose veins is essential to properly manage the condition and prevent potential complications. The following are situations when it is advisable to seek medical attention from a DFW podiatrist:
- Intense pain or discomfort in the legs
- Rapid swelling, redness, or warmth around a varicose vein
- Presence of skin changes, such as inflammation, thickening, or discoloration
- Development of open sores or ulcers
- Bleeding from a varicose vein
- Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), such as swelling, pain, and redness in the leg
In addition, if you are bothered by the cosmetic appearance of your varicose veins, and it affects your self-esteem or quality of life, it is reasonable to seek professional care. When facing complications related to varicose veins, seeking the expertise of a podiatrist can prove beneficial. At Alliance Foot and Ankle Specialists, our podiatrists can assess the severity of the condition, identify potential complications, and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as sclerotherapy.
Sclerotherapy to Treat Varicose Veins
Sclerotherapy is a popular and effective treatment option for varicose veins, offering several benefits for individuals seeking relief from their symptoms and improved cosmetic appearance. The procedure involves injecting a solution directly into the affected veins, which causes them to collapse and eventually fade. Sclerotherapy is particularly effective for smaller varicose veins and spider veins. Each patient is different; for some, multiple sessions may be necessary to achieve optimal results.
Benefits of Sclerotherapy
- Minimally invasive. Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure performed in a podiatrist’s office, making it a convenient option for those who wish to avoid surgery and the associated risks. There is minimal downtime involved, so you can usually resume your normal activities shortly after the procedure.
- Highly effective. Sclerotherapy has a high success rate in treating varicose veins. The injected sclerosing agent causes the veins to collapse and close off. Over time, the body absorbs the treated veins, resulting in improved blood flow and reduced or eliminated varicose veins. Multiple sessions may be required for optimal results, depending on the extent and severity of the varicose veins.
- Symptom relief. Sclerotherapy can provide significant relief from symptoms associated with varicose veins. This includes reducing pain, heaviness, aching, and discomfort experienced in the legs. By closing off the problematic veins, sclerotherapy helps redirect blood flow to healthier veins, relieving the pressure and improving overall circulation.
- Improved cosmetic appearance. Since varicose veins can be cosmetically bothersome, sclerotherapy can effectively diminish the appearance of varicose veins, leading to smoother, clearer skin. The treated veins gradually fade, resulting in a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
- Minimal side effects. Sclerotherapy is generally well-tolerated, and serious complications are rare. Some individuals may experience mild side effects, such as temporary bruising, redness, or itching at the injection site. These side effects typically resolve within a few days.
To determine whether you are a candidate for sclerotherapy, contact a DFW podiatrist. Your podiatrist will review your medical history and evaluate the condition of your veins. If you are pregnant, you are not able to get the procedure.
In addition to sclerotherapy, other treatments for varicose veins may include making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and getting enough exercise. Wearing compression stockings can help reduce swelling associated with varicose veins. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to treat the varicose veins. Surgery may consist of removing or tying off the veins.