There are many Frequently Asked Questions regarding varicose and spider veins. Although you may also find some of this information in other parts of our site, this section is designed to provide you with a comprehensive source for quick answers.

Please remember that these Q&As provide general information and are not for diagnostic or treatment purposes. It is always appropriate to consult your physician with any medical questions.

What are spider veins?
Spider veins are small blood vessels near the skin’s surface that have become enlarged. They look like tiny branches or webs of blue, purple or red, most often appearing on the legs. Spider veins are a cosmetic issue and generally are not harmful to your health.

What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins occur in the larger veins and look rope-like. They bulge and twist, and are most often found on the inner thighs, calves and feet. Although they generally do not cause major health problems, they are a medical condition that sometimes leads to infections or skin ulcers. Varicose veins are the result of veins that have weakened, usually due to faulty valves, causing the vein walls to be exposed to increased pressure, and eventually, to stretch. In some cases, the valves don’t function properly because the valves themselves are weak or damaged. As a result, the valves don’t fully close and blood leaks back down the vein.

Please remind me – how do veins work?
The circulatory system in our body is made up of arteries that carry blood away from the heart and deliver it to the rest of our body. The role of the veins is to carry blood back to the heart. In a healthy leg vein, there are small one-way flaps (valves). The valves open when blood flows up the vein to return to the heart, then they close to prevent the blood from flowing back down the vein. Damaged or unhealthy veins allow the blood to flow back down – your physician may refer to this as venous reflux or venous insufficiency.

Besides the obvious look of enlarged veins, what are typical symptoms of varicose veins?
For many people symptoms include one or more of the following:

  • swelling
  • aching
  • throbbing
  • burning
  • heaviness
  • restless legs (sometimes caused by vein problems, but not always).

What causes varicose veins?
There are many different causes, including:

  • heredity
  • increasing age
  • hormones
  • conditions that increase abdominal pressure (i.e. liver disease)
  • pregnancy
  • standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • excess weight
  • rapid weight loss
  • lack of exercise.

Although some of these factors are completely out of your control (i.e. family history, age and gender), you can make lifestyle changes to help control the other factors (i.e. excessive standing or sitting, excess weight and lack of exercise). 

How can I prevent varicose veins?
Let’s start with recommendations that have an impact on all areas of our health – maintaining a healthy weight and incorporating exercise into our lives. Extra weight causes additional pressure on your veins leading to damaged valves which cause venous reflux. Exercise helps manage weight AND it helps prevent varicose veins by improving circulation. For most people, walking for 30 minutes a day is an appropriate form of exercise (of course, you should consult with your physician before beginning any new exercise program). If feasible, elevate your legs after exercising – this will help prevent blood from pooling in your legs.

As mentioned above, it can be helpful to elevate your legs for about 10 minutes a day, especially after exercise or if you’ve been on your feet for an extended period of time. To ensure that your legs are above heart level, prop them on several pillows while lying down.

When sitting or standing (especially when you’re especially focused on projects at work or home), take a brief break every 60 minutes if possible. Take a short walk or flex your feet up and down to keep your blood flowing. You can easily flex your feet while sitting at your desk, talking on the phone or watching a movie.

Compression stockings (also known as elastic stockings) can be used as both a preventative measure and after treatment of your varicose veins. Although you can purchase these at various stores, it is wise to use prescription compression hose expertly fitted to your legs. Peoria Vein Center physicians can provide advice and recommendations, or write a prescription for you if appropriate.

What are the complications of NOT treating my varicose veins?
As with any medical condition, each patient should carefully be evaluated and offered individualized treatment recommendations. In some cases, varicose veins will not cause problems beyond the aching, burning and swelling. However, some varicose veins can develop into serious complications including:

  • Phlebitis: This recurring painful condition involves the vein and surrounding skin. It is caused by a blood clot within the vein. The affected area becomes red, warm, tender, swollen and hard.
  • Skin Ulceration: This is when the skin starts to erode, most often around the ankles. It is very painful and slow to heal.
  • Stasis Dermatitis: This condition is recognized by permanent discoloration of the skin, which also typically occurs around the ankles.
  • Blood Clots: In very rare circumstances, blood clots may form that can be life threatening.

Why are women (especially during pregnancy) more prone to varicose veins?
It is true that varicose veins occur more often in women than in men, yet we need to be aware that men are also affected and should be treated. Statistics estimate that 31% of women and 17% men have varicose veins.

Women are more prone to varicose veins for various reasons, including hormones and past pregnancies. As women gain weight for each pregnancy, it puts more stress on the body. In addition, relaxin is produced during pregnancy. This hormone does just what it says: it “relaxes” various muscles, with the primary purpose of stretching the joints around your pelvis to help accommodate delivery. However, relaxin also affects other parts of your body, including the smooth muscles of your vein walls. This can cause the valves to not close properly during pregnancy, therefore allowing blood to flow back up (reflux) resulting in varicose veins.

Fortunately, for some women, this is only temporary as it is the result of relaxed vein walls – not the result of truly damaged veins. After pregnancy, the valves may begin to properly function again. Women who still have varicose veins when they are no longer pregnant, could have permanent valve damage which may require treatment.

Where should I go for treatment?
It is wise to select a board-certified surgeon who has extensive experience in a wide range of procedures. Qualified surgeons have the knowledge to recommend the right treatment for your individual needs. All Peoria Vein Center surgeons are board certified with special training the treatment of vein diseases.

The word “surgeon” may conjure up fear or hesitation in some patients. While some cases do require surgery under general anesthesia, there are now many innovative procedures that can be performed on an outpatient basis in a qualified physician’s office.

In addition to the experience of the group’s physicians, you should feel comfortable with the nursing and administrative staff.

What treatments are available?
There are many different options available today including traditional treatments such as sclerotherapy, as well as innovative procedures such as Venefit (Radiofrequency Ablation of the Vein) and TriVex® System. Some of these are used primarily for spider veins, while others are used to treat varicose veins. You may click on any procedure listed below to jump to an overview page:

How long will I be off work after treatment?
The answer depends on your treatment, but in many cases the restrictions are minimal. Depending on your profession and lifestyle, you should be able to resume many of your normal activities fairly quickly (strenuous activities will probably be limited for a short time). In all but a few cases, patients easily walk out the door shortly after their procedure is completed.

Will my varicose veins come back after treatment?
Yes and no. The vein that was treated will probably not have additional problems. Once the treatment is completed, the vein is absorbed back into your body (much like a bruise) and blood is rerouted to nearby veins.

The “yes” part of the answer refers to the fact that some people are, unfortunately, predisposed to varicose veins. Maybe it’s because of their family history, their lifestyle or just their physiology, but some people continue to have varicose veins. However, in most cases it is a problem with different veins than the one(s) that were originally treated.

I’ve heard that leg veins are sometimes used for heart bypasses, so won’t I still need that vein?
No, if the vein is damaged, it wouldn’t be usable for a bypass anyway.

How much does treatment cost?
The cost varies by the type of treatment, which is recommended based on your needs.

Does insurance pay for these procedures?
Insurance may cover your varicose vein treatment if it is required due to a medical condition. Our staff can help you work with your insurance company to determine if your procedure would be covered. Spider veins are considered cosmetic and are not typically covered.

What now?
Call 309.495.0240 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced surgeons.
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