The Vein Center
The Vein Center is the specialty area where Physicians of Arkansas Cardiology Consultants perform procedures specific to vein (venous) disease.
What is venous disease?
Venous disease, which impacts more than 30 million Americans, refers to conditions related to or caused by veins that become diseased or abnormal. The disease occurs when vein walls become weak, damaged, stretched or injured and veins stop working normally, causing the blood to begin to flow backward as the muscles relax. This creates unusually high pressure in the veins.
Venous disease includes conditions such as varicose veins and CVI. If left untreated, varicose veins can progress to CVI, which is a more serious form of venous disease. Signs and symptoms of CVI can worsen over time and include ankle swelling, fatigue, restlessness and pain of the legs, skin changes and ulcers.
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be blue, red or flesh-colored. They are often raised above the skin on legs and look like twisted, bulging chords. Varicose veins occur when the valves in the leg veins no longer function, causing blood to pool in the legs.
If left untreated, varicose veins can progress to a more serious form of vein (venous) disease called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Given the prevailing misunderstanding that varicose veins are only a cosmetic issue, only 1.9 million of the more than 30 million Americans who suffer from varicose veins or CVI seek treatment.
What are spider veins?
Spider veins, which often cover the legs and even the face, are damaged veins that appear to be similar to varicose veins, only thinner. Appearing red or blue in color and similarly like thin spider webs or branches, these veins are closer to the skin surface and can spread over a range of areas on the skin; however, unlike varicose veins, spider veins are typically not raised above the skin’s surface. Spider veins can be treated with sclerotherapy and, though they can also be associated with varicose veins or CVI, they are a less threatening symptom of venous disease.
What causes varicose veins?
There are a number of factors that contribute to varicose veins and CVI, including pregnancy and heredity. As varicose veins progress to become CVI, other painful and unsightly signs and symptoms like ankle swelling, fatigue, restlessness and pain of the legs, skin changes and ulcers may occur.
Additionally, the following factors may increase your risk for developing varicose veins that can progress to become CVI:
- Family history of varicose veins
- Lack of exercise
- Lifestyle that requires standing for long periods of time
- Excess weight
- Current or previous pregnancies
What is CVI?
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a progressive medical condition that worsens over time and affects the veins and vessels in the leg that carry oxygen-poor blood back toward the heart. Varicose veins, which are enlarged veins in the leg that appear like twisted, bulging chords, can progress to CVI if left untreated.
What are the signs and symptoms of CVI?
If varicose veins are left untreated, they can progress to a more serious form of venous disease called CVI and result in signs and symptoms that worsen over time, including pain, swelling, restlessness and fatigue of the legs, as well as skin damage and ulcers in more severe cases. Those with the disease may experience symptoms that make walking and everyday tasks difficult.
Who is at risk for CVI?
Individuals with untreated varicose veins are at risk for developing CVI, as the signs and symptoms can progress and become more serious over time. CVI can occur at any age; however, increased age is a risk factor. CVI tends to be more prevalent in women who have been pregnant, those who have a family history of the condition, or those whose jobs require prolonged standing.
CVI can affect anyone; gender and age are large factors that may increase your risk for developing the disease. For example, women older than 50 are more likely than others to develop venous disease that can lead to CVI. The disease is very often hereditary and can affect several members of the same family.
Can I prevent CVI?
For mild forms of venous disease, lifestyle changes may be recommended to control symptoms. When symptoms progress, they can be treated with numerous minimally-invasive procedures that are covered by many insurance plans. Managing risk factors such as blood pressure and weight and staying physically active can all help ease the pressure on the veins in the legs.
The following can also help control varicose veins and other signs and symptoms:
- Avoiding prolonged standing
- Elevating the feet above the thighs when sitting, and above the heart when lying down
- Avoiding clothes that are tight around the waist, thighs or legs
- Strengthening calf muscles through an appropriate exercise plan
Since varicose veins cannot always be prevented, it is important to talk to a vein specialist about treatment options before the condition progresses into CVI and symptoms worsen.
What can I do?
As varicose veins are often misunderstood as a cosmetic problem, many people living with them do not seek treatment. The good news is that there are minimally-invasive treatment options available for varicose veins and CVI that are covered by many insurance plans. These treatments address the condition before it progresses further, allowing for a short, comfortable recovery and a quick return to everyday activities.
What can happen if I overlook my varicose veins and symptoms of CVI?
Treatments to remove diseased veins can be effective in eliminating the varicose veins and symptoms of CVI, and also preventing the condition from progressing. If left untreated, varicose veins can progress to become CVI, a more serious form of venous disease that will often present increasingly worse signs and symptoms over time that may be more difficult to treat. Those can include ankle swelling, fatigue, restlessness and pain of the legs, skin damage and ulcers.
Assessment and Screening
More than 30 million Americans suffer from venous disease, including varicose veins and a more serious form of venous disease called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), yet only 1.9 million seek treatment each year. If left untreated, varicose veins can progress to become CVI with symptoms that worsen over time. Fortunately, by diagnosing and treating varicose veins you can halt the progression of the disease. Varicose veins can be detected and treated by a vein specialist at Arkansas Cardiology Consultants who can also perform a simple ultrasound to diagnose CVI.
Despite the myths, varicose veins are not just a cosmetic issue. They could lead to a more serious form of venous disease called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) if left untreated.
Varicose veins can be treated with various minimally-invasive treatments that are covered by many insurance plans. Unfortunately, while more than 30 million people in the United States suffer from venous disease, only 1.9 million seek treatment each year.
Compared with surgical options like ligation and stripping, minimally-invasive treatments result in less pain and quicker recovery time, with most patients returning to routine activities the next day.
It is important to see a vein specialist if you have varicose veins to prevent the condition from progressing into CVI, which can result in more serious signs and symptoms such as ankle swelling, fatigue, restlessness and pain of the legs, skin damage and ulcers.
Individuals affected by varicose veins or CVI should know that there are minimally-invasive treatment options available that are covered by many insurance plans. Some of these treatments allow for a short, comfortable recovery and a quick return to everyday activities while also eliminating varicose veins and improving the appearance of your legs.
Endovenous thermal ablation is a minimally-invasive treatment that involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a diseased vein to seal it shut using heat. Blood that would normally return toward the heart through these veins will then travel through other veins instead. The treated vein then dries up, shrinks and is absorbed by the body.
Two types of energy may be used:
Radiofrequency Ablation uses radiofrequency energy to provide an even and uniform heat to contract the collagen in the vein walls, causing them to collapse and seal off.
Laser Ablation uses a thin fiber inserted into the damaged vein through a very small entry point in the skin. A laser light is emitted through the fiber, as the fiber is pulled back through the vein; it delivers just the right amount of energy. The targeted tissue reacts with the light energy, causing the vein to close and seal shut.
A local anesthetic fluid is injected into the area of varicose vein clusters to be treated. The doctor then uses a small scalpel or needle to puncture the skin next to the varicose vein, inserts a small hook into the hole, grasps the vein and removes it. The area is covered with a compression bandage and/or compression stockings. No stitches are required and the scars are nearly imperceptible.
Sclerotherapy is the injection of a chemical into a diseased vein, which causes the vein to seal off. As with endovenous ablation, blood will then reroute to other veins in the body.
Multiple treatments may be needed to close the damaged vein. Vein specialists will often use Sotradecol or Asclera treatments, which can be done in the office without anesthesia.
Patients are typically able to return to routine activities immediately but are encouraged to wear compression stockings for at least several days following the treatment. Some bruising may occur and patients are recommended to wait at least 4-6 weeks between treatments.