Did you know that there are stages of vein disease? That’s right, this is a progressive condition. In fact, the Clinical Etiology Anatomy Pathophysiology classification lists six distinct stages. They begin at C0, where you have no visible sign of vein disease. Next, at C1 you have noticeable spider veins. Progress to C2? Now, varicose veins emerge. By C3, you’re worrying about edema. And if you get to C6? Well, at this point, you’ve got an active venous leg ulcer to address.
Now, all of that is really important information to understand. Especially if you’ve been delaying treating your spider veins. Do you hate how they look, but aren’t sure if there’s a good medical reason to get rid of them? If so, you NEED to read this blog post.
Why? Because, if left untreated, the vein problems you’re already experiencing will get worse. And they can lead to further medical complications. In fact, by the end of this post, we’re guessing you’ll be ready to talk vein treatment. But first, let’s review three clear signs that pushing off your vein treatment is no longer an option.
Stages of Vein Disease
Vein disease gets worse if left alone. So you should seek treatment in the early stages of vein disease. And, to help you do that, here are the different stops along the way to serious vein disease.
STAGE 1: You’ll notice small red or blue veins under your skin. They may look like tree branches, and will be one millimeter or less in diameter. But, while they’re small, they still mean your leg veins have leaky valves.
STAGE 2: Here come the varicose veins. They are larger, blue twisted veins that bulge under the surface of your skin. at this stage, you may also develop symptoms. These include heaviness, itching, pain, inflammation, or even a ruptured vein, which can lead to bleeding events.
STAGE 3: Edema and lympheda become problems. Your legs and ankles swell from pooling blood in your lower leg. Your skin may feel tight. And it could take on a leathery appearance.
STAGE 4: Your skin changes colors. Usually, you’ll notice rust colored skin, especially around your calves and ankles. Again, this change comes from pooling blood in your lower legs.
STAGE 5: You may develop wounds (leg ulcers). While they may form scars, they’ll be difficult to heal.
STAGE 6: Your ulcers could bleed (Venous stasis ulcers). They could also leak pus or fluid. They may give off bad odors. And they’ll leave skin feeling tender or even burning. These ulcers also increase yoru risk for skin infections or even amputations in extreme situations.
This is When to Seek Varicose Vein Treatment
As we mentioned, there are stages of vein disease. And, as with all progressive conditions, early treatment is best. So here are the clear signs it’s time to seek vein treatment.
- You notice dilated leg veins: Dark, vivid veins are unsightly. But visibly dilated veins expand in size, and that’s a clear sign to seek treatment.
- Your legs are tired and heavy: If your legs are heavy or numb or just-plain tired, varicose veins are impacting your quality of life.
- You develop phlebitis: Phlebitis causes inflammation in specific venous areas. The surrounding skin gets red and hot to the touch. You may also notice lumps beneath your skin. (And they’ll be painful!) You’ll usually notice this problem in your lower legs. But small surface veins in your arms, breasts or penis can also be impacted. There are two types of phlebitis: one that impacts surface veins, and one that hits your deeper veins. Superficial phlebitis isn’t a major medical concern, but phlebitis in your deeper veins (also called DVT, or deep vein thrombosis) is a medical emergency. In fact, it could be fatal if not treated quickly.
- And this condition is a clear sign to seek immediate treatment for your varicose veins.
Now we know how to spot the crucial moment to seek vein treatment, let’s look at what happens if you don’t.
If you ignore varicose veins in the early stages of vein disease, they won’t stay the way they are. And they certainly won’t get better! Instead, these bulging veins will get larger and more dangerous. (See the six stages of vein disease above.)
So…that’s the bad news. But here’s the good: we can stop this progression in its tracks with proper vein treatments.
And the earlier you seek treatment, the greater the variety of treatment options you’ll be offered ( all of which we’ll review in 3…2…1…
Top Treatment Options for Varicose Veins
Depending on your disease progression, you may be eligible for one or more of the following treatments:
- Cosmetic sclerotherapy. If you aren’t having symptoms, or your veins are near the surface, this is a great choice. Treatment addresses unsightly veins that don’t show serious disease symptoms. It’s fast, minimally invasive and requires no sedation or anesthesia.
- Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy. This outpatient procedure is the best way to treat spider leg veins. We inject solution into your affected vein. Next, it shrinks and closes so blood flows through healthier veins, instead. Once the vein closes, it disappear from view over time. And the procedure takes just 15 minutes. Afterwards, you wear compression stockings for a week. But you can get back to normal activities right away, making sure to walk for at least 30 minutes each day.
Ablation Treatment for Vein Disease
Another option our Houston vein specialists offer is radiofrequency vein ablation (RFA), typically used to treat varicose veins and other problems caused by venous insufficiency or reflux.
RFA is a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is inserted into an abnormal vein, heating the vein to close it permanently. Radiofrequency ablation requires only a local anesthetic, causes little or no pain, and leaves virtually no scar. The outpatient procedure takes less than an hour to perform and patients can resume normal activities immediately afterwards.
Finally there is ambulatory phlebectomy—a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to remove bulging varicose veins located just below the skin.
Phlebectomy is performed under local anesthesia. Several small incisions are made to extract your bulging varicose vein. Since we make small incisions, you won’t need stitches and scarring is minimal or even non-existent. We call this procedure “ambulatory” because you can walk immediately after we get done!
Before recommending any of our vein treatments, our vein specialists will perform a thorough exam and discuss all your available options. Together, we’ll decide on the best way to stop your progressive vein disease in its tracks! So make your appointment today!
Sources: Cleveland Clinic