What is the difference between varicose and spider veins?
Technically, it’s very simple. Varicose veins are raised above the skin and spider veins are not. Anyone can run their finger across a vein and determine if they have a varicose or spider vein. Varicose veins can be as small as a pencil lead or as big as a garden hose. Spider veins that are around the size of a strand of hair are also called telangiectasias and spider veins the size of cooked spaghetti are also called feeder veins or venules. Despite how easy it is to tell the difference, knowing which treatment will work best is more tricky.
Do stockings really help varicose veins?
That’s easy, the answer is yes and no. How can the answer be both yes and no? Well, varicose veins are veins that are swollen with blood due to paper thin, one way valves that have failed. The one way valves assist the veins in returning the blood to the heart and preventing gravity from pooling blood in the lower legs. These valves often fail from a genetic predisposition, hormones, multiple pregnancies or prolonged standing. Blood that pools in the leg does not circulate fresh oxygen and causes heaviness, fatigue, itching, burning, restless legs and outright pain. When this occurs, graduated compression stockings will not only shrink the size of the leaky vein, but forces the stagnant blood back toward the heart and lungs for fresh oxygen. This can relieve symptoms, but does not fix the broken valves. Therefore, when the stockings are removed the veins, swelling and pain returns.
Does varicose veins cause restless leg syndrome?
Maybe. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition and movement disorder that causes an uncontrollable need to move the legs. This usually occurs at night but can also occur during periods of inactivity. About 1 out of 10 people are affected and sleep patterns are often disrupted.
RLS seems to worse for people with diabetes, sleep deprivation, excess alcohol consumption, prescription medications or venous insufficiency.
Many patients that have RLS and varicose veins notice their RLS goes away after getting their varicose veins treated and their circulation improves. Patients that have varicose veins and RLS should consider consultation with a vein specialist to discuss treatment options to eliminate their varicose veins, improve venous circulation and possible cure RLS.