Goodbye Spider and Varicose Veins

They’re More Common — and Easier to Treat — Than You Think

They can be tiny or bulging, painless or throbbing. But nearly half of us can expect to get spider or varicose veins, especially after age 50.

“The good news is that many techniques now make vein treatments more safe, comfortable, and effective,” saysEllen D. Dillavou, MD, a vascular surgeon at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

What New Treatments are Available?

Among the newest is the injection of polidocanol for the treatment of spider veins. “It’s a cosmetic procedure that works much better than saline to collapse surface veins,” says Dr. Dillavou. “Spider veins do reoccur, though, so expect to do ‘touch ups’ periodically.” Injections also are used for larger veins and may replace older procedures like a “vein stripping.”

For treating varicose veins, radiofrequency ablation (a minimally invasive procedure in which radiofrequency energy seals the vein closed) is a popular treatment among her patients, says Dr. Dillavou, “because it’s comfortable and effective.”

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

“Varicose and spider veins typically don’t pose a health risk, but they can point to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI),” says Ziad Khoury, MD, a cardiologist who also practices vascular medicine at UPMC Bedford Memorial. “It’s a visual cue that blood may not be optimally flowing from the legs to the heart, which can lead to more serious problems.”

Other CVI symptoms include painful, tired, restless, achy, itchy, or swollen legs or ankles. In more advanced cases, skin changes and ulcers can develop. “The problem becomes more difficult to treat as it advances, so it’s important to always share your symptoms with your doctor,” says Dr. Khoury.

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