07/23/2024

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Growing up, my mother instilled confidence in only three of her children, and she led by example. She never complained that her hair didn’t fall the right way, that her lipstick was smudged, or that her nail polish was chipped-everything was always perfect. The only thing I ever heard her mention with disdain was the varicose veins that crawled up her legs like thin cobwebs.

Anar Mikailov, M.D., a Massachusetts-based dermatologist and co-founder of Skintensive, explained that varicose veins are dilated purple blood vessels that can be seen and often felt at the top of the skin. He explains that they are usually located on the lower leg (they are affected by gravity) and they often stick out of the skin. “When the blood flow to the legs is unskilled, they are just fragile vascular veins that expand like balloons,” further explains Ellen Marmur, a Manhattan dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare.

According to the American Academy of Dermatologic Surgery, more than 40 percent of women suffer from some form of varicose veins, a slightly higher percentage than men. Statistically, this is very common, but like cellulite, which affects up to 90 percent of women, it can still lead to some level of insecurity, as it did for my once confident mother.

If you fall into that category, know that there are several ways to minimize the appearance of varicose veins. Here, three experts share treatments that can get rid of them and cover them up for a while. But before we start the treatment, let’s look at the underlying causes of varicose veins.

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What causes varicose veins?
Genetics play a role, but factors such as age and previous injury may also contribute to spider veins. Gender, medications and weight fluctuations are all influential factors, says Claudia Rios, a board-certified internist at the Vein Specialty Center. “Prolonged standing or sitting can also play a role,” she adds. Most importantly, ASDS also attributes varicose veins to pregnancy and sunburn.

Are varicose veins a sign of health problems?
Dr. Rios says varicose veins are a sign of venous disease that occurs in stages. “The first telltale sign of venous insufficiency may be spider veins, which may be on your ankle, with no discomfort other than appearance,” she explains. However, as it progresses further, she says patients may develop varicose (larger) veins along with an increased awareness of heaviness or pain in the legs.

For many people, she says the biggest problem with varicose veins is their appearance. “But the longer you use them, the more they can develop worsening symptoms, such as pain or heaviness in the legs; burning, throbbing, muscle cramps and swelling in the calves; increased pain after sitting or standing for long periods of time; itching around one or more veins; and changes in skin color around the varicose veins,” Dr. Rios says.

It is important to be evaluated by a vein specialist to prevent more serious disease progression. Be sure your doctor is board certified in vascular surgery, cardiology or a vascular specialty such as the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine (ABVLM), Dr. Rios says.

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What is the best way to treat varicose veins?
Depending on the severity of the varicose veins and how much money you want to spend, there are several treatment options.

  1. Injections
    Injections of spider veins with glycerin or Asclera are another option. Dr. Marmur says the injections are painless. (She has done it and says the procedure is “surprisingly tolerable.”) Dr. Mikelov explains that sclerotherapy – the official name for the treatment – causes the veins to collapse, which sounds scary, but it just means that the veins will constrict and therefore sink into the skin, thus eliminating the swelling of the veins.
  2. Laser treatment
    Laser treatment is another option. This non-surgical procedure works by heating the vein, which kills the vein wall, and in turn, the body absorbs the dead tissue to reduce inflammation. Dr. Marmur explains that a laser is inserted into the vein, which is then closed. “It’s a procedure done with swollen lidocaine and can take several sessions,” she says. “External lasers for vascular lesions are also used, but less than injections.”

Dr. Marmur said lasers and injections are usually about $350 per session, and people should plan on three to six treatments, depending on the veins being treated. Dr. Mikelov says to expect to pay anything between $300 and $500.

  1. Surgery
    In more severe cases, surgery is an option. Dr. Mikailov says options such as vein ligation and stripping physically remove the vein through an incision, but urges people to consult a varicose vein management specialist to get a thorough evaluation of their condition and cause before proceeding with surgery. In terms of pricing, Dr. Marmur said insurance can cover the procedure if someone qualifies, and Dr. Mikailov said to expect a price range of $1,500 to $3,000.
  2. Wear compression socks
    Now, while it’s not a cure, wearing compression socks can reduce discomfort and prevent varicose veins from getting worse. “[This will] help blood flow back from the legs to the heart,” explains Dr. Mikailov.

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Are there any side effects to varicose vein treatment?
As with any type of in-office treatment or surgery, there are some side effects. For less invasive areas, Dr. Marmur says to expect more redness, minimal swelling and up to 4 weeks of bruising in each area, adding that small crusts or blood clots may also occur. “If there is a dark area of clotting, let your doctor know and ask if you should come in and release the trapped blood,” she noted.

For surgical treatment, Johns Hopkins adds that potential risks include blood clots, inflammation, nerve damage, bruising and changes in the color of the skin of the treated veins.

How to hide varicose veins with makeup
If you want to hide varicose veins, you can use a little makeup instead of treatment. Celebrity makeup artist Kelly Dawn says to look for a tinted formula that’s super long-lasting but doesn’t look heavy or draw more attention to unwanted areas. Her product of choice is ALLEVEN Color Shield because it “provides the perfect long-lasting coverage and beautiful shine for the face and body” and can “cover everything from acne, scars, tattoos and varicose veins, giving you the perfect spray for your extremities. “

For best results, she says spray it from about 8 inches away to the desired area. “Avoid placing too much product in one area, as this can affect its lasting power and natural coverage,” she warns. “3D pigments are very opaque, so they can properly color and cover any blue tones caused by varicose veins.” Simple! As if it couldn’t get any better, she assures that the formula is also sweat and transfer resistant.

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