Aug. 2, 2004 -- New treatments are helping the millions of people with varicose or spider veins on their legs to shed their cover-ups this summer, say experts speaking at the annual summer meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in New York City last week.
"These veins cause heaviness of the legs, aches, pains, night cramps, and ankle swelling," says Mitchel P. Goldman, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California at San Diego. "They are a huge national problem -- far and beyond just a cosmetic problem."
The good news is that new, effective, and minimally invasive procedures exist that can vanish these unsightly veins quickly and painlessly.
Spider veins are small, red, blue, or purple veins under the skin that look almost like road maps, while varicose veins are larger and deeper. Such unsightly veins occur in 30% of people by age 20 and in 80% of people by age 80. They occur when the walls of the veins or the valves are weak. Blood is supposed to flow through the veins and to the heart, but when a valve in a vein becomes damaged, blood pools, flows backward, and puts pressure on vein walls -- causing bulging, painful varicose veins
With sclerotherapy -- the procedure used to treat these conditions -- a doctor injects a scarring or sclerosing solution into the veins. The solution causes the inside lining of the vein to become inflamed and 'sticky,' causing it to then close.
Today, "foam sclerotherapy is less painful and less dangerous and a better bang for the buck" than older treatments, he says.
They are a "major advance and there is no pain whatsoever with these new detergent foam treatments," he says.
But all good things take time, he explains.
It takes about six weeks for the veins to disappear. "You don't walk into the office before you go on a cruise to have your veins done because it takes six weeks for veins to go away."
But "not only do we get rid of veins, we get rid of all the symptoms," he says.