Varicose veins are the visible and large, bulging, surface veins, felt under the skin. They generally are larger than one eighth inch in width, and are usually located along the inside part of the calf or thigh. Varicose veins develop due to weakness of the vein wall and because the valves of the veins no longer work. Under the pressure of gravity these veins can continue to expand and, in time, they may become longer, twisty, pouched, thickened and painful.
Other veins often mistaken for varicose veins are spider veins and reticular veins, which are the visible purple or greenish-blue veins that appear in our legs. Spider veinsor teleangiectesias are tiny veins that you can easily see, but cannot feel, and are usually located at the surface skin layers. Reticular veinsare larger than spider veins but smaller than varicose veins and may cause symptoms. Spider veins typically do not cause symptoms, and treatment for these is frequently cosmetic unless symptoms are present.
Vein problems are among the most common chronic conditions in America. In fact, more people lose work time from vein disorders than from artery disease. Varicose veins affect up to twenty five percent of women and fifteen percent of men. By the age of fifty, nearly forty percent of women and twenty percent of men have significant leg vein problems. Spider veins occur much more frequently in women.
Limited physical activity, high blood pressure and obesity have also been linked with the presence of varicose veins in women. Varicose veins may be entirely symptom-free and cause no immediate health problems. Treatment in such cases is often considered cosmetic. When symptoms are present, the most common are ankle and leg swelling, heaviness or fullness, aching, restlessness, fatigue, pain, cramps and itching.
Varicose veins can also be associated with ulcers of the legs. In the most severe cases, varicose veins may lead to thickening and discoloration of the skin of the legs, eczema and non-healing sores around the ankle area. Varicose veins, especially when they are very large, are at risk of forming a blood clot, a condition known as superficial thrombophlebitis. If you experience any of these of varicose veins symptoms, talk with your doctor. Don't ignore leg pains.
If you don't respond to self-care, compression stockings, or if your condition is more severe, your doctor may suggest one of these varicose vein treatments. In sclerotherapy procedure, your doctor injects small- and medium-sized varicose veins with a solution that scars and closes those veins. In a few weeks, treated varicose veins should fade. Although the same vein may need to be injected more than once, sclerotherapy is effective if done correctly. Sclerotherapy doesn't require anesthesia and can be done in your doctor's office.
Doctors are using new technology in laser treatments to close off smaller varicose veins and spider veins. Laser surgery works by sending strong bursts of light onto the vein, which makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. No incisions or needles are used. In one of these treatments, your doctor inserts a thin tube into an enlarged vein and heats the tip of the catheter. As the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to collapse and seal shut. This procedure is usually done for larger varicose veins.
Current treatments for varicose veins and spider veins are effective. But, it's possible that varicose veins can recur. Before having any procedure, ask your doctor about any health risks and possible side effects. When it comes to treatment options for varicose veins, it pays to be a cautious health consumer. You may want to inquire about treatment costs, as well. Many insurance policies don't cover the expense of elective cosmetic surgery for varicose veins.
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