Medical FAQ

By Devyn Bernal – November 1, 2016

Varicose and Spider Veins

Think you’re the only one who struggles with cosmetic leg issues? Don't be so vein. Dr. Connie Hsu, an expert interventional radiologist at ARA Diagnostic Imaging, answers common questions about vein disease. Because even if your spider veins aren’t detrimental, they could be varicose. 

What is the underlying cause of vein disease? Who can it affect, and how early?

Prominent rope-like veins in the legs are called varicose veins. Varicose veins occur because the veins draining them have poorly functioning valves (venous reflux). These valves are frequently influenced by genetics and hereditary factors. Small clusters of veins on the surface of the skin are called spider veins. Often considered to be just a cosmetic problem, some spider veins can cause burning pain and itching. Varicose veins affect over 8 million Americans. About 1 out of 4 women and about 1 out of 10 men will experience venous disease. It can occur as early as the teenage years. As people get older, their veins can get larger.

Is it safe to exercise when you have varicose or spider veins?

Yes, it is safe to exercise. In fact, some vein patients use exercise to make their legs feel better. However, when the veins become painful and start interfering with your ability to exercise, it is time to see a vein doctor.

Which movements are best for slowing the progression of venous reflux? Does diet have any effect?

Avoid standing in one place. If your job requires that you stand for prolonged periods of time, then wear medical grade compression stockings. Walking and running can help slow the progression of venous disease. Diet does not directly affect venous disease. However, a healthy diet is recommended because weight gain and obesity can worsen the problem. 

What precautions can a young athlete take now to prevent varicose/spider veins in the future?

Avoid traumatic injury to the legs, such as football tackles, falls and soccer accidents. Wear compression stockings when standing for prolonged periods of time.

Can EVLT (endovenous laser therapy) affect athletic performance?

EVLT is often recommended for treatment. It’s a simple, non-surgical procedure that gets rid of varicose veins quickly. EVLT can improve athletic performance if venous reflux is causing leg heaviness, fatigue, painful varicose veins, and/or leg swelling. When stockings fail, then minimally invasive treatments like EVLT are an attractive option to consider. It is done in an outpatient setting—patients walk out of the clinic after the procedure and can return to work the next day. Patients can resume their previous exercise regimen in two to three weeks.

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