Veins in the human body carry blood back to the heart, acting as one-way valves to prevent blood from flowing backward. If veins become weakened, the blood that leaks backward may congest and clot.
The trapped blood causes telangiectasias or "spider" veins to branch out, and bulging veins called "varicose" to appear under the skin.
"Spider veins are smaller blood vessels, usually appearing red or blue. They
are usually superficial -- typically about the size of a hair. You see spider veins mostly on the face, but you could see them on the legs too. They can be a sign of sun damage or roscea."
"Larger varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort. They can cause clots," Dr. S. Sasha "Jaz" Jazayeri said. "Typically they are not associated with any other systemic condition, like heart disease."
According to Jazayeri, both types of veins are inherited, with varicose being more prevalent. Though unsightly, such weakened veins are generally not considered life threatening, but they can be a nuisance.
Varicose veins look like dark purple or blue twisted cords under the skin.
"Usually you see them in the lower legs," Jazayeri said.
"Both men and women can have them, but they are a little bit more frequent in women. Hormones also play a role."
Typically varicose veins start to be seen from age 40 up. A person whose job keeps them on their feet can exacerbate varicose veins if an individual is already prone to having them.
"Walking and exercise help reduce the appearance of varicose veins. That is part of the treatment we recommend."
Other measures to help delay the onset of varicose veins are support hose and a high fiber diet that keeps the internal body pressure correct, Jazayeri said.
If the vein is large enough, it can be removed entirely with a technique called "stripping" or with the newer methods: cauterizing the two ends with a little laser or injecting a foam to collapse the vein.
A laser procedure is usually used on the face.
The usual treatment Jazayeri employs for varicose veins and spider veins in the legs is called sclerotherapy.
Sclerotherapy "involves injecting a (saline) solution into the vein that causes the lining of the vein walls to swell, stick together, and eventually seal shut.
The flow of blood is stopped and the vein turns into scar tissue. In a few weeks, the vein should fade," states material from the National Women's Health Information Center.
It does not require anesthesia and can be done in a doctor's office. A patient may need more than one injection or laser treatment.
Side effects may include itching along the vein route, ankle swelling or discoloration that takes four to 12 months to go away.
Insurance companies consider treatments for unsightly veins to be cosmetic, elective procedures according to Jazayeri, although cases of extreme pain might be covered.
A single treatment costs around $200.
The American Academy of Dermatology states that most patients can expect a 50 percent to 90 percent improvement after sclerotherapy.
For more information, contact your doctor or Payson Dermatology at (928) 472-7107.