Dr. Brittany Cook’s Overview of Varicose Veins
If you have varicose veins or suspect that you have them, then you probably have a lot of questions. These often invisible veins can wreak havoc on your life, causing discomfort, pain, and even embarrassment about how your legs look. To help guide you through, Dr. Brittany Cook has made this comprehensive introduction to varicose veins.
In this blog we’ll look at:
- Chronic venous insufficiency — the source of varicose vein
- What causes varicose veins?
- How do varicose veins develop?
- When you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Brittany Cook
- When are varicose veins a medical emergency?
- Diagnosing varicose veins
- Varicose vein treatment
If you have noticed symptoms or are concerned about developing varicose veins, schedule your free consultation today to learn more and begin a treatment plan.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency — The Source of Varicose Veins
Chronic venous insufficiency is the root cause of varicose veins, resulting in symptoms such as:
- Swollen legs
- Skin discoloration
Eventually, chronic venous insufficiency can lead to the tell-tale dark, bulging veins associated with varicose veins.
The above symptoms, along with varicose and spider veins, are usually enough for diagnosis. Unfortunately, sometimes these symptoms can slip through the cracks and go undiagnosed due to a lack of visual symptoms. That’s why Dr. Brittany Cook and her team at East Tennessee Vein Clinic perform ultrasounds to make a correct diagnosis.
Aching legs are the most common symptom of chronic venous insufficiency, but it’s also not very specific. Leg pain combined with swelling and cramping are much more reliable signs of the disease. You may also experience heaviness, burning, and itching. Over time, these symptoms may begin to reveal themselves as varicose veins.
Click here to read more about chronic venous insufficiency!
What causes varicose veins?
The leading cause of varicose veins is genetics. If both of your parents had varicose veins then you have an 89% chance of developing them. Having only one parent with the disease reduces your risk by about half. Biological sex is another key factor since females are much more likely to have them than males. 50% of females will have them at some point in their lives.
Females have the hormones estrogen and progesterone at much higher levels than males, creating a higher risk of varicose veins. These hormones cause the muscles in the vein walls to loosen, making them more susceptible to chronic venous insufficiency. Pregnancy is another risk factor since it puts increased pressure on veins.
Your job can also increase your risk of varicose veins if it requires a lot of sitting or standing. Both can cause blood to pool in your legs more easily, resulting in increased pressure within the veins. It’s important to sit down when you can if your job requires a lot of standing, or get up and walk occasionally if you have to sit a lot at work.
How do varicose veins develop?
The veins in your legs contain one-way valves that help pump blood back to the heart. Unfortunately, these valves can malfunction and get stuck in the open position. This causes blood to collect in your lower legs rather than be pumped back to your heart. As blood pools in your lower legs, pressure increases within the veins, leading to inflammation and other symptoms associated with varicose veins.
It’s this inflammation that leads to common symptoms in the legs, such as:
Symptoms become more apparent as the disease progresses. Aching and swollen legs are common symptoms in the early stages, but advanced stage symptoms such as discoloration and bleeding are a lot more serious.
Click here to learn more about the causes of varicose veins!
When should I schedule an appointment with Dr. Brittany Cook?
The best time to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brittany Cook is as soon as you start experiencing symptoms of varicose veins. Varicose veins don’t endanger your life, but they can become increasingly uncomfortable as your day progresses. These “invisible” symptoms are usually your first sign that something is wrong.
By seeking treatment immediately, you greatly reduce the risk of your varicose veins developing any further. You will also spend less time feeling uncomfortable and doing at-home treatments, such as raising your legs to help encourage blood to flow.
Putting off treatment for too long can result in veins that are swollen and discolored. No longer just uncomfortable, these veins can also feel embarrassing for many people. You may find yourself wearing long pants in hot weather, preferring to be uncomfortable rather than let people see the veins on your legs.
Visiting us at East Tennessee Vein Clinic as soon as you experience symptoms is the best way to avoid this. Dr. Brittany Cook and her team can diagnose your condition and provide you with treatment options, helping you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Click here to learn more about when to seek varicose vein treatment!
When are varicose veins a medical emergency?
Varicose vein symptoms are easier to manage in their early stages. You can even manage your symptoms on your own by:
- Elevating your legs at the end of the day
- Wearing compression socks
However, you’ll need to address the root cause of your symptoms to truly find relief. More concerning is the fact that varicose veins are a chronic condition. This means that your symptoms will only get worse with time without professional treatment, regardless of how much management you do on your own.
In its advanced stage, varicose vein symptoms can include:
- Sores or rashes around your ankles
- Veins that feel warm to the touch
- Thickened or discolored skin
- Veins that bleed easily
Symptoms like bleeding may require immediate medical attention. While this may stop the bleeding, it still won’t address the core problem. You’ll still need to see us if you want to get rid of your varicose veins for good.
Venous Skin Ulcers
One particularly disturbing symptom for varicose veins is venous skin ulcers. Wounds such as cuts and rashes on the legs tend to take longer to heal for most people, but this symptom takes an abnormal amount of time. Leg ulcers are a common problem for diabetics. However, leg ulcers on non-diabetics could signal advanced-stage varicose veins.
Good circulation is essential for your skin to heal properly. Unfortunately, chronic venous insufficiency prevents effective blood circulation in your legs. This can cause minor injuries to become much more serious and even lead to new ones. Over time, these wounds can become ulcers due to poor blood flow, possibly resulting in a serious infection throughout your body.
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience an infection from venous skin ulcers. They can spread throughout your body, affecting much more than the health of your veins and the look of your legs.
Seeking treatment early can prevent problems like venous skin ulcers and infections from ever troubling your mind. While symptoms are manageable in the beginning, they will only get worse with time. By getting diagnosed and being treated early, you’ll ensure that they never progress to this stage.
Diagnosing Varicose Veins
The source of your varicose vein symptoms is usually invisible to the naked eye. Dark, ropey veins may be the tell-tale sign, but they’re not always present when your veins are inflamed. Instead, the affected system of veins could be hidden below the skin, requiring a more in-depth examination.
Dr. Brittany Cook and her team at East Tennessee Vein Clinic use ultrasound to locate these diseased veins. Ultrasound imaging lets us see below the skin and spot problem areas, map them out, and develop a treatment plan. This form of diagnosis helps us decide where to focus our efforts to rid you of your symptoms at their source.
Varicose Vein Treatment
It usually takes a combination of professional treatments to fully rid yourself of varicose veins. According to Dr. Cook, this helps address every detail of your condition to ensure your symptoms never return.
Popular treatments for varicose veins include:
- Endovenous thermal ablation
- Ambulatory phlebectomy / microphlebectomy
- Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy
Endovenous Thermal Ablation
Endovenous thermal ablation is often our first choice for varicose vein treatment. Dr. Cook uses a catheter to treat the saphenous vein, the longest vein in the human body. She heats the catheter to seal up the diseased veins as it's withdrawn from your leg, treating your symptoms at their source. This treatment usually only takes around 15 minutes and is 99% effective.
Ambulatory Phlebectomy / Microphlebectomy
Ambulatory phlebectomy / microphlebectomy is often used after endovenous thermal ablation. Ideal for large, discolored veins, we make a puncture to remove the diseased vein from your body. We’re committed to making our patients feel as comfortable as possible, so we provide nitrous oxide and a local anesthetic to ensure that you don’t feel a thing.
We usually reserve ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy for the final stage of varicose vein treatment. For this procedure, we inject foamed sclerosants into the diseased vein to seal it off from healthy ones and put a stop to your symptoms. This form of treatment is vital for stopping varicose veins from returning, and it only requires 2 - 3 sessions to be fully effective.
Are you ready to finally be rid of your varicose veins? Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!
Varicose veins are the result of chronic venous insufficiency. Often related to genetics, it causes the one-way valves in your veins to malfunction and get stuck open. This results in inflammation and other uncomfortable symptoms. You should schedule an appointment with us as soon as you experience symptoms to prevent further complications. We use ultrasound imaging to diagnose your condition and offer multiple treatments to help you get back to the life you love.
Contact us at East Tennessee Vein Clinic to get help for your varicose veins. We treat varicose veins differently by eliminating the entire network of failed veins, not just large visibly bulging veins. You can contact us online, or call us at 865.686.0507 or toll-free at 866.281.VEIN.