Veins: Not Just a Cosmetic Concern

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Oregon Clinic

More than 80 million people in the U.S. suffer from Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a condition that causes spider or bulging veins. CVI can be an unsightly annoyance, but if left untreated, it can also cause serious health risks.

What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

CVI occurs when stresses on the venous system weaken the vein structure so blood doesn’t properly flow back to the heart, causing veins to swell and blood to pool in the legs. As a result, pressure builds and the diseased veins become enlarged, eventually bulging to the skin’s surface. Venous disease may be superficial (in the form of varicose or spider veins), deep vein failure (such as ulceration or skin changes), or both. CVI is commonly diagnosed by a simple ultrasound test.

What are the causes?

While CVI can affect anyone, there are a few factors that may increase risk. Due to hormonal factors, women are more likely than men to suffer from abnormal leg veins and up to 55% of American women may be affected by CVI in their lifetime.

Other factors that may increase risk include aging, leg injury or trauma, occupations that require standing or sitting for long stretches of time, and excess weight.

What are CVI symptoms?

Symptoms of CVI can include leg aches, pain, heaviness, fatigue, ankle swelling, muscle cramping, restlessness, itching, and burning. These symptoms often worsen when sitting or standing for long stretches of time. Some may also experience changes to their skin, like discoloration. If left untreated, more serious symptoms might arise like blood clots, bleeding, rashes, and ulcers.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for abnormal veins helps eliminate the symptoms of CVI, and also prevents more extensive vein disease from developing. There are several treatment methods that close or remove the diseased vein to improve blood flow by directing blood to healthy veins.

Vein stripping: A rarely performed surgical procedure involving an incision in the groin to remove or tie off a large vein in the leg.

Endovenous radiofrequency ablation (EVRFA): A more common treatment than vein stripping, EVRFA is a minimally invasive treatment that uses radiofrequency energy to provide heat to contract the collagen in vein walls, causing them to collapse and seal.

Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA): Uses laser heat to collapse and seal the affected vein.

Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy or chemical ablation: Minimally invasive alternatives to surgical removal of varicose veins. During these procedures, a sclerosant (medicine used to shrink veins) is injected into the diseased veins.

VenaSeal: This vein closure system is the newest cutting-edge treatment for CVI. Unlike other treatments requiring surgery and anesthesia, VenaSeal is minimally invasive and catheter-based, using a small amount of medical adhesive to close the diseased vein. Benefits of VenaSeal treatment include:

More post-procedure comfort: Minimal numbing medicine and no compression stockings.

Faster recovery: A speedy recovery means patients are able to return to normal activities sooner.

Proven results: A recent patient study found that after 12 months, VenaSeal recipients experience a nearly 100% closure rate.