When it comes to treating visible veins in your legs, you have a few options. If these veins solely impact your confidence, especially when wearing shorts or dresses, you might consider elective cosmetic procedures performed by a plastic surgeon to give you the look you are going for. However, if you are experiencing pain or a general heaviness in your legs as a result of these veins, it could be a sign of a larger vascular concern that should be assessed by a vascular physician.
Visible veins that are blue or red, thin and spidery or thick, large and bulging could signal a circulation problem called venous reflux. Healthy veins contain tiny one-way valves that allow blood to defy gravity and travel from the lower extremities up to the heart. If a valve is defective, some of the blood comes back (refluxes) and pools in the legs, causing the vein to bulge.
“Rarely are these veins a life-threatening problem,” says Paul Corcoran, M.D., a vascular surgeon and medical director for the Henry Ford Vein Center. “But they can cause symptoms that can be lifestyle-limiting."
These symptoms may include:
- Pain throughout your legs
- Pressure centralized around visible veins
- Itchiness or a burning sensation
- Leg heaviness
When blood flow in the legs is weak or slow, it can result in the following conditions:
- Varicose veins. These bulging, bluish veins, usually in the legs or feet, can cause aching pain or a feeling of heaviness—especially after standing or walking. About 35% of people in the United States have varicose veins.
- Spider veins. Thinner and smaller than varicose veins, spider veins appear as squiggly threads close to the skin’s surface. They are usually found on the legs or ankles, but they can also appear on the face. Usually if you have varicose veins, you’ll also have spider veins.
- Reticular veins. Appearing as a blue or purple line on the thighs, lower legs or ankles, this type of vein does not protrude above the skin surface as varicose veins do. Reticular veins can cause pain and can branch or feed into spider veins; removing them can help eliminate spider veins.
Treatment Options For Painful Veins
If you are concerned about your veins and have symptoms, several solutions are available that do not require skin incisions or only need a tiny puncture. These procedures are usually done on an outpatient basis (at the doctor’s office) with a local anesthetic, resulting in little or no downtime, minimal pain and a short recovery period.
Common treatments for these vein conditions include:
- VenaSeal procedure: A catheter is used to seal off the varicose vein – allowing blood flow to naturally reroute to other veins.
- Laser therapy: A small laser is used to break down the visible or bulging wall of the vein so it is less visible from the surface of your skin.
- Radiofrequency ablation: A probe inserted under the skin emits heat that helps break down stubborn veins.
- Microphlebectomy: Through a small incision, a vascular surgeon can go in and remove the problematic vein.
- Sclerotherapy: A solution is injected into the vein, causing it to shrink – allowing blood to reroute to different veins in the body.
- Compression garments: Compression sleeves or stockings can help reduce symptoms by improving blood flow. These garments can be found at most pharmacies but be sure to talk to your doctor before purchasing. Wearing the wrong size can cut off your circulation.
- Lifestyle changes: Some aspects of your day-to-day can improve the appearance or prevent unsightly veins. Consider exercising more to get your heart pumping and limit the amount of sodium in your diet by eating heart healthy.
An experienced vascular physician can evaluate your condition, explain your treatment options and work with you to choose the plan of care that is safest and most effective for you.
“It is important that we do a comprehensive evaluation of these veins to learn how they are impacting your health,” says Dr. Corcoran. “We need to make sure they aren’t related to any other health concerns so we can recommend appropriate treatments."
Even with treatment, there is a chance that varicose, spider or reticular veins may return. Your doctor can work with you to monitor them and set up additional appointments following your initial treatment if symptoms persist.
To schedule an appointment with a vascular physician, visit henryford.com or call 844-725-6424 if you are in Detroit or Southeast Michigan or 517-205-1305 if you’re in Jackson or South Central Michigan.
Dr. Paul Corcoran is a vascular surgeon and the medical director of the Henry Ford Vein Center. He sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane.