blue veins

Blue Veins: What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them

For many people, blue veins on their legs or face are a cosmetic issue that affects their self-confidence.  Some, however, experience discomfort.  Fortunately, a vascular specialist can offer patients a number of alternatives for eliminating these abnormal blood vessels.

What Are Those Blue Veins?

Tiny web-like veins that might also be red or purple are most likely spider veins that cause no medical problems.  The so-called gold standard for treating them is sclerotherapy, described below.

Larger, rope-like vessels are varicose veins.  They can cause a great deal of discomfort and require evaluation by a vein doctor.  According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, as many as 35 percent of Americans suffer from these abnormal veins, which most often develop in the legs.

Veins transport blood toward the heart.  When damaged, valves inside them are unable to close properly.  This causes blood to leak backward.

As blood pools in the vein, the volume causes the vessel to swell and bulge.  The result is often a knot-like, dark blue or red varicose vessel visible through the skin, MedlinePlus indicates.  The patient might sense an aching feeling, throbbing, or swelling in the feet or the ankles.

Risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Age
  • Being female
  • Obesity of even being overweight
  • Family history
  • Prior blood clots in the leg
  • Prolonged sitting or standing

Treatment Options for Varicose Veins

Patients at a vein center in McLean, VA have multiple options.  The Mayo Clinic reports that conservative measures include lifestyle changes such as losing excess weight, elevating the legs, not sitting or standing for long periods, and avoiding tight clothing.  Compression stockings are another conservative option.

For more severe cases, vein doctors can offer these outpatient options:

  • Sclerotherapy:  A physician injects a special solution into small or medium veins to cause them to scar, close, and eventually fade.
  • Foam sclerotherapy:  Vein clinics use it for larger veins.
  • Laser procedures:  This technology seals off small varicose vessels and spider veins by emitting bursts of light that cause the vein to fade, then disappear.
  • Catheter procedures with radiofrequency or laser energy:  As the physician pulls out a heated catheter inserted into a large varicose vein, the heat causes the vessel to collapse, then seal shut.
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy:  It allows a vein specialist to remove small veins through tiny punctures in the skin.
  • Endoscopic vein surgery:  Usually reserved for advanced cases when other procedures fail, it involves inserting a tiny camera to see, close, and remove veins.

For decades, vein stripping was the standard treatment for varicose veins.  Today, physicians seldom use it.

It is important for patients to realize that while there are multiple options for eliminating varicose veins, no procedure will prevent new vessels from forming.  For this reason, some patients return for periodic treatment.