The same thing happens about this time every year: we dial back the calories, dial up the gym time and reach for the sunless tanner — all with the goal of getting our bodies looking their best for summer. But there’s one unsightly feature you may not have considered getting fixed before putting on those bikini bottoms and hitting the beach: varicose veins. Whether they just popped up during/after your pregnancy or they’ve been around for as long as you can remember, these not-so-pretty and possibly painful veins aren’t a problem you have to live with forever.
We spoke to the experts at Charlotte Radiology about some ways to get our legs vein-free and swimsuit-ready.
How do I know if I have spider/varicose veins?
Dr. Eric Wang says with varicose veins, most patients will have visible ropey, bulging, twisting and/or swollen areas on their legs. Others may have less visible symptoms: an achy, heavy feeling; restless legs; or a tingly, twisting feeling like barbed wire. Most patients he sees also have a family history of varicose veins, but not always.
Spider veins can be more subtle than varicose veins and usually look like annoying purple or blue-tinged thin lines branching across the skin’s surface. Spider veins are usually more of a cosmetic concern than a painful one, but they can still be easily treated.
Ok, I think I may have a vein problem. What do I do now?
Scheduling a consult with a physician is the first order of business. During the consult, an ultrasound is taken of the veins to evaluate your blood flow, size and complexity, and determine if you have venous reflux. If you are diagnosed, Charlotte Radiology’s board-certified, interventional radiologists will determine the best course for treatment. This is all documented for insurance and takes about 45 minutes.
What can I do about my spider veins?
Spider veins are most commonly treated with sclerotherapy, a chemical solution mix injected directly into the vein to dilute the blood flow and decrease its visibility. However, spider veins can also be a sign of a deeper issue—varicose veins and saphenous venous insufficiency (blood pooling). Varicose veins are caused when internal superficial veins no longer carry the blood flow effectively back to your heart. This venous reflux causes the blood to pool and pesky symptoms as well as visible varicose and spider veins can become apparent.
What treatment can I get for my varicose veins?
Typically, varicose veins are treated with a procedure called Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT), a minimally invasive technique that uses laser energy to seal the problematic veins shut, forcing the blood to flow through other, healthier veins. Just like when you’re stuck in traffic on the interstate, you take a different off ramp or side road to get home. That’s essentially what this procedure does within your venous system.
How long is the treatment process?
Each individual’s care plan will be assessed at their initial consult based on their ultrasound findings and overall symptoms. After the initial consult, all ultrasound results and physician assessments are submitted to insurance and, depending on each individual’s insurance, compression hose are required for a variable amount of time (typically 90 days) before the first EVLT procedure can be scheduled. Once treatment is initiated, it can take a few months before achieving ideal results. (That means you should hurry up and set up a consultation if you want your legs looking great by summer!)
I don’t have any vein issues yet … Is there anything I can do to prevent vein problems in the future?
Choose healthy life style habits and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight and staying in one position standing or sitting for long periods of time can put additional pressure on your veins. Exercise improves circulation and also reduces overall blood pressure and strengthens the circulatory system. Also don’t smoke! This is associated with high blood pressure and can lead to many health problems including venous insufficiency and varicose veins.