By: Jean Johnson for Veins1
We’ve all seen them, and some of us have them. At the very least, the little patches of spider veins that can mark aging thighs not to mention the face as well. Worse cases feature a twisted, swollen network of full blown varicose veins running up the back – and even the fronts – of the calves.
|At a Glance
|According to The Society for Interventional Radiologists:
Approximately half of the U.S. population has venous disease – 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men. Of these, 20 to 25 percent of the women and 10 to 15 percent of the men have visible varicose veins.
And wouldn’t you know it, women suffer from this problem more than men. While 60 percent of Americans have some form of venous break down, half of all women find themselves wondering how to stay looking good in their shorts as aging veins betray bodies in decline.
Varicose problems occur mostly in the legs, because that’s where the job of pumping the blood back to the heart from these extremities is most taxed. Consequently, the little one-way valves in the legs that keep blood from backing up in the circulation system can lose function over time. Instead of slowly but surely shunting the blood back toward the heart, compromised valves allow the blood to pool, a situation that in turn puts pressure undo on the leg veins.
In particular, people that put extensive pressure on their legs by standing for long periods of time or maintaining excess weight are prone to varicose veins. And yes, even short term bouts with weight like pregnancy can trigger problems. Extended periods of sitting and crossing one’s legs can also predispose people to venous problems in the legs. Finally, exposure to sun is implicated in spider veins on the face.
Self-care and protection, then, ranges from using sun screens and hats to exercising (especially activities that work the legs) to improve circulation and venous capacity and function. Even short periods of walking or putting one’s feet up – as circumstances dictate – can make critical differences. Also avoiding tight clothing that constricts waist, groin, and legs is recommended to keep the body’s internal mechanisms in tune.
As far as treatment, there are a number of procedures that can benefit those whose varicose veins are troublesome. In particular, imaging techniques – the relatively non-invasive methods by which circulation experts (also called interventional radiologists) insert tiny spaghetti-sized catheters through a puncture in the skin and thread them to the site in question via an imaging screen – have pioneered ways to seal off and thus shrink the veins in question. Termed the closure technique, the FDA approved this method of treating varicose veins in 1999, and it is fast becoming the gold standard. Laser surgery is also effective for spider veins and increasingly for some varicose problems as well.