Healthy, smooth legs don’t have to be a thing of the past
We all know women who have great legs that are unfortunately marred by the ugly purple veins that make them shun shorts and embrace pants. While these spider veins may be a superficial nuisance, what's going on beneath the surface may be more concerning. Spider veins are sometimes a precursor to varicose veins - the twisted, bulging veins that cause pain for many women.
What are varicose veins?
One of the most common forms of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) affecting women is varicose veins. These veins are the twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin that most commonly develop in the legs and ankles. There are two things that cause varicose veins: "Often, faulty valves in the veins or weakening in the vein walls can make them bulge," explains Virtua interventional cardiologist Randy Mintz, MD
. "They may also be caused by genetics, lifestyle and age. Regardless of the cause, it results in a build-up of pressure in the legs that causes blood to pool."
Look for these symptoms
Symptoms of varicose veins include heavy, tired, achy and painful feelings in the legs that worsen after standing or sitting for long periods of time. "Varicose veins can also cause skin color changes; dry, thinned skin; inflammation; and open sores or bleeding after a minor injury," explains Joshua Brodkin, MD
, interventional radiologist at the Virtua Vascular Institute. Dr. Brodkin notes that varicose veins are common, and are not usually a sign of a serious medical problem.
To diagnose varicose veins, physicians often begin with a visual examination of the legs and feet. "We look for tender areas, swelling and skin color changes," says Dr. Brodkin. "In addition, we use a Doppler ultrasound to look for abnormal blood flow between deep veins and superficial veins, which is the main cause of varicose veins."
Getting rid of unsightly varicose veins
In some cases, varicose veins can be treated with lifestyle modifications or compression stockings. However, when these treatments don't work, surgery may be necessary. There are various surgical procedures for treating varicose veins. "The veins can either be injected with a chemical or treated with a laser that causes the vein to collapse," says Constantine Andrew, MD,
vascular surgeon at the Virtua Vascular Institute. Diseased veins also can be surgically removed through minimally invasive surgery.
About Virtua's Vascular Institute
Virtua's Vascular Institute is a collaboration of physicians from cardiology, interventional radiology and surgery who all specialize in vascular medicine. "We diagnose and treat everything from blocked arteries to spider veins," says Dr. Andrew. "Therefore, the treatments vary from life-saving to cosmetic procedures. That's why it's important to have a multidisciplinary approach to care. Each specialist at the Vascular Institute is an expert in a given field. By collaborating, we can offer each patient the best treatment."
Constantine Andrew, MD,
is board certified in general and vascular surgery. He earned his medical degree at Eastern Virginia Medical School and an internship at Riverside Hospital Medical College of Virginia. Dr. Andrew went on to complete his residency in general surgery at Cooper University Medical Center and a fellowship in vascular surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Joshua Brodkin, MD,
is a board certified interventional radiologist. He earned his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He completed an internship in radiology at St. Barnabus Medical Center and a residency in radiology at Hahnemann University Hospital. Dr. Brodkin then completed a fellowship in interventional radiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Randy Mintz,MD, FACC,
is board certified in cardiology and interventional cardiology. He earned his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and completed a residency in internal medicine at Cooper University Medical Center. Dr. Mintz then completed a fellowship in cardiology and subspecialty training in diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. He is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association.