Leg vein disease is more common than many people realize. It can result in spider veins and varicose veins. Although these abnormal vessels are a significant cosmetic concern for some patients, they sometimes cause discomfort and medical complications for others. While vein problems have a number of possible causes, understanding how veins work and taking some proactive steps can help patients strengthen their veins.
Overview of Vein Health
The human body contains around 60,000 miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries that transport blood and nutrients, according to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSU). A number of health issues determine whether a person is susceptible to vein problems, among them diabetes, heart disease, excess weight, and genetics.
A leg vein’s job is transporting blood from the extremities back to the heart, where it picks up oxygen and then recirculates. Valves in leg veins help drive blood upward, against the force of gravity. In a patient with leg vein disease, these valves malfunction, causing blood to fall backward, pool, and stretch vein walls. These incompetent veins often develop into spider veins or their larger cousins, varicose veins.
While a spider vein problem is usually a cosmetic issue, the Mayo Clinic notes that varicose vessels can cause pain, other types of discomfort, and serious complications such as blood clots or skin ulcers. Compared to a varicose vein, a spider vein is smaller and usually lies much closer to the surface of the skin. It takes its name from the weblike clusters that vessels tend to form.
Steps for Keeping Veins Healthy
Individuals with risk factors for leg vein disease can do a number of things to maintain vein health and strengthen leg veins. OSU cites these steps:
- Make physical activity a priority.
- Follow a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables to boost circulation and vein wall health.
- Wear compression stockings to help muscles surrounding veins push blood upward toward the heart.
- Elevate the legs several times a day to boost circulation.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to keep blood thinner rather than thicker.
- Avoid smoking, which can cause vascular narrowing and hardening and deoxygenate blood, causing it to thicken.
- Remain alert for common leg vein problems such as swelling, fatigue, or heaviness and schedule an assessment from a vascular surgeon if any of them occurs.
Vein Treatment Options
When self-care measures fail to prevent leg vein issues, vascular surgeons offer a number of vein treatment options performed at a vein clinic or other outpatient facility to eliminate targeted vessels. They include:
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Endovenous laser treatment
These therapies are minimally invasive. They allow patients to quickly get back to work and resume their normal daily routines. Each patient receives a customized treatment plan. In some cases, it includes a combination of therapeutic options.