Put an End to Visible Leg Veins

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Summer is around the corner and that means shorts, bathing suits and showing some skin. Dr. Joshua Fox offers tips on new treatment options that can put an end to visible leg veins.

For most people, summertime means showing some skin, at least more than we typically reveal in the winter months. But for roughly half of the adult population, showing skin also means showing embarrassing veins—tiny red “spider veins” as well as larger varicose veins—which makes the thought of shorts and short skirts far less appealing. According to Dr. Joshua Fox, a leading NY area dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC, “until fairly recently, having legs with large visible veins meant you had only two major options: Sign up for surgery or cover them up.” But he adds that today, you can have all but the biggest varicosities treated with in-office procedures that are nearly painless and can deliver great results—meaning you’ll be showing those legs in no time.”

Tips on Today’s Treatment Options
Happily, new advances mean that doctors can treat all but the biggest veins with simple in-office procedures. The first, called sclerotherapy involves the injection of a solution that irritates the inner surface of the affected vein, causing it to collapse and/or scar over and close. The fluid displaces any blood that’s pooled there and prevents any more blood from collecting; the body simply reroutes the blood to another vessel. Eventually, the defunct vein will dissolve and be absorbed by the body. The second option is laser therapy, in which the doctor aims an extremely strong and precise beam of light at the vein; pulses of this laser energy effectively destroys the vessel, which will eventually disappear. Both of these treatments are very effective on small-to-medium-sized vessels, and can be used in combination to achieve optimal results.

For larger veins, Dr. Fox says, there’s the new CoolTouch CTEV laser, which can treat the varicose veins that before now required in-patient surgery better known as vein stripping. This procedure typically involves general anesthesia, a hospital stay and lengthy recovery. This new laser technique offers almost immediate relief, with no pain and minimal to no down time after the 45 minute to an hour procedure,” according to Advanced Dermatology PC’s Dr. Philip Fried. “Most of our patients are able to quickly resume their normal activities,” he adds. This procedure also eliminates the pain & heaviness of the leg. It also helps treat leg ulcers, stasis dermatitis, leg swelling, varicose veins, pritting edema and other signs of venous problems.

While some people will see immediate results from sclerotherapy and laser treatments, most will have to wait a few weeks before the veins shrink (and some veins may require more than one treatment). In addition, Dr. Fried says, all of these treatments can produce occasional bruising. Therefore, he says, they’re best performed at least two months before most of us break out the shorts.

A question of circulation
Although they can be caused by other things such as trauma or the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy, varicose veins are typically symptoms of a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI, which is a problem in the circulatory system. (A quick review: Your heart pumps blood filled with oxygen and nutrients to your entire body through arteries, then veins then carry the blood back to the heart.)

“In the lower part of your body, the veins have to work against gravity to keep the blood moving in the right direction,” Dr. Fox explains. “Only leg veins have a series of valves that act as one-way doors—they let blood pass upwards, towards your heart, but stop it from flowing backwards.” If the valves aren’t working properly—either because of a hereditary predisposition or simple aging—blood can leak back into the veins and collect there.

Veins that have become distended and filled with that blood are called varicose. They are usually blue or purple, and are often raised, twisted and ropy-looking. Any vein may become varicose, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs and feet, because of the pressures of walking and standing. The risk of varicose veins increases as you get older, as wear and tear on the valves in your veins and the veins themselves can make them weaker and more likely to allow blood to pool there. Gender also plays a role as women are more prone to varicosities than men. Hormones, family history, obesity, and habits like standing or sitting for long periods all increase your risk for varicose veins.

Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are dilated blood vessels that appear in the outer layer of the skin—a kind of mini-varicosity. Spider veins can be a symptom of CVI, but they also show up in people with otherwise healthy circulation. These occur in the legs and other areas like the face. The most common factors that contribute to the development of spider veins on the legs are heredity, weight gain, hormonal shifts, or activities that require you to stand or sit for a long period of time, the same factors that promote varicose veins.

Dr. Fox advises that people wanting to treat leg veins talk with their dermatologist for the best approach for their situation.

About Dr. Fox: Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D., earned his medical degree from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He completed an internship at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, followed by a three-year dermatology residency at the New York University School of Medicine. A Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Fox is a leading authority in the field of dermatology, with an expertise in skin cancer, acne, cosmetic surgery and laser procedures and is the author of many dermatologic publications. He is the founder and director of Advanced Dermatology, P.C. of New York and New Jersey and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery and is a spokesman for both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. He is the director of a fellowship program in Laser & Cosmetic Surgery. http://www.advanceddermatologypc.com/index.html. Dr. Fox is also the founder and President of The New Age Research Foundation, a national, non-profit [501 (C) (3)] health organization committed to improving the quality of life of those with skin conditions through research and education.

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MELISSA CHEFEC
MCPR
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