Vein Reflux Disease / Varicose Veins

Radiology treatment for varicose veins and vein reflux

What is vein reflux disease?

Vein reflux disease is often the culprit behind varicose veins. They are those bulging veins that often appear on the legs. Vein reflux disease is also known as venous reflux disease or venous insufficiency. The disease makes the tiny valves that send blood back to the heart to stop working. This causes blood pools in the legs and the veins become swollen and weak.

More than 25 million people in the United States suffer from this disease. These are the swollen and discolored leg veins that cause ugly bulges under the skin. Venous reflex disease can cause varicose veins and spider veins, which are the thinner, purple veins that sit under the skin. Venous reflux disease is a progressive disease. It can cause major problems with circulation as it gets worse.

Who gets venous reflux disease?

Those suffering from venous reflux disease are more often women and older people. About 72 percent of women and 42 percent of men develop venous reflux disease by the time they are 60.

About 10 times more people have venous reflux disease than have peripheral arterial disease in the country Venous insufficiency is not cosmetic – it can create many health problems and limit a person’s lifestyle. For example, more than 2 million workdays are lost to venous insufficiency in the country each year. People spend more than $1.4 billion each year to treat the condition.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are the dark blue or purple, bulging veins that can be seen through the skin. They are caused by an inability of the veins to properly return blood to the heart. Therefore, the blood pools in the veins and causes them to become swollen and discolored. Varicose veins are often caused by venous reflux disease.

Identifying when you have varicose veins

Typically, you can know that you have varicose veins by looking at them. These veins protrude above the skin’s surface (though they are still covered by skin), and they look like a tangle of rope. The area around the veins might be swollen, as well, or the veins may appear raised on their own.

These veins appear on the legs, and they can appear as low as the ankles and as high as the groin. However, they are usually found on the back of the calf or knee. They are next found most often on the inside of the thigh.

Sometimes, these veins are painful, and sometimes they are just an aesthetic issue. For some people, varicose veins are painful enough to limit their mobility or impact their quality of life. Some symptoms can include restless legs, muscle cramps, itching skin, swelling of the ankles, a heavy feeling in the legs, and throbbing pain. Some people are not able to walk when these symptoms present, while others just can’t stand for long periods of time.

Blood clots, skin ulcers, and other problems can appear if you have a serious circulatory problem that is contributing to the varicose veins. These issues require immediate medical attention.

Treatment options for varicose veins

Fortunately, there are many options for treating varicose veins.
Milder cases can be treated non-surgically. For example, sclerotherapy can seal the veins with a chemical solution and lasers can fade spider veins. Lifestyle changes like getting more exercise, wearing compression socks, regularly elevating the legs, losing weight, and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting can help prevent the condition from worsening.
Surgical options are available for more serious cases of bulging veins and those that cause serious pain and swelling. For example, a catheter can be inserted into the vein to heat and seal it with radiofrequency (RF) technology. Since the RF technology uses a low temperature, it does not damage the surrounding tissue. Therefore, patients do not have as much pain or bruising than with some other treatments.


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