You may not understand the reasons to schedule a vein assessment.
After all, those bulging, twisting vessels speak for themselves. However, while you may be able to see varicose veins, you cannot see everything going on underneath the surface in those vessels. A vein assessment will give your physician all the information necessary to make an accurate diagnosis of your condition and recommend the right treatment for your specific situation. There are a number of good reasons why a vein assessment is a good idea for varicose vein sufferers.
Vein Assessments are Non-Invasive and Painless
Venous examinations are typically performed via ultrasound, a non-invasive device that converts sound waves into images of your vessels. The procedure has been used for many different diagnostic and treatment purposes over the years, so its safety and efficacy have been well proven. Ultrasound even offers the ability for your physician to see and record blood flow inside your veins, so they have sufficient information to make an accurate diagnosis of your vein condition and can evaluate the full level of damage your veins may have suffered.
Ultrasound examinations are often performed with the patients in a standing position, to get a more accurate idea of blood flow. Gel is applied to the area to be examined, which allows the ultrasound an optimal field for relaying the sound waves. A handheld device known as a transducer is placed on the skin where the gel has been applied, which sends out the sound waves and records the returning echoes to create the image.
Ultrasound assessments usually take 30 minutes or less to complete, and offer ample information about the specific cause of your varicose veins. If the procedure is performed in your physician’s office, the results are available immediately. This allows your doctor to make a rapid diagnosis and recommend your treatment all in the same appointment.
Varicose veins are often caused by an underlying condition known as venous reflux or venous insufficiency. This condition occurs when small valves inside the veins stop working properly. Under normal conditions, these valves keep blood flowing in a single direction back to the heart. When they become damaged, blood can reflux back into the vessel, causing the vein to enlarge and weaken. The end result can be the appearance of varicose veins, along with uncomfortable symptoms like painful, aching legs and swelling of the lower leg, ankle and foot.
An ultrasound examination can help your physician pinpoint the precise cause of your varicose veins, even down to identifying the valves that aren’t working and the degree to which your blood flow is affected. This can be valuable information in determining the best treatment for your specific needs. It can also help you doctor know whether your condition could be causing other potential problems, such as blood clots or skin and tissue damage.
Evaluate Other Complications
Varicose veins are unsightly, may be painful and in some cases, are the tip of the iceberg. Venous insufficiency that causes varicose veins can also lead to changes to the skin surrounding the swollen vessel. These changes are due to pressure building inside the damaged vessel, which allows blood to seep out. The blood cells that migrate out of the vessel can lead to skin and tissue damage, which you may begin to see as skin discoloration and irritation.
Changes to the skin may be fairly subtle at first but if they are left unchecked, they can become more prominent and painful. Skin thickening can occur, due to hardening of the underlying skin layer. Discoloration can become more prominent, as red blood cells break up and cause pigmentation changes. If the skin is injured in this state, a large open sore known as a venous ulcer can form. These ulcers can be very difficult to treat completely. By assessing your vein condition early, your physician can determine whether these skin changes are a possibility and recommend treatment before they occur.
Rule Out Blood Clot Risk
While varicose veins and blood clots do not always occur simultaneously, there is a slightly higher risk of one if you have the other. An ultrasound examination can also be used to detect any blood clot formation, both in superficial veins and underlying vessels. Clots that form in the superficial veins are known as thrombophlebitis, a condition that can become painful in time. Fortunately, treatment for thrombophlebitis is fairly straightforward and effective.
Clots that form in the deep vessels of the legs are known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This condition can develop without any noticeable symptoms but the vast majority of the time there is unilateral sudden onset of leg pain and swelling. The danger with DVT is that the clot or a portion of the clot can break free and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. This can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as pulmonary embolism. If DVT is detected early, steps can be taken to prevent a pulmonary embolism from occurring.
Provide Information for Insurance Coverage
A final benefit of a venous assessment concerns insurance coverage for your vein treatment. Insurance companies will not typically cover the cost of treating veins for strictly cosmetic reasons. However, if an underlying medical condition is diagnosed, you may be eligible for coverage for some or all of your vein treatment. An ultrasound examination is an important component in providing your insurance provider with all the information necessary to determine whether an underlying condition is indeed present.
In addition to your examination, you may need to have documentation of symptoms like aching, swelling and leg fatigue. You may also be required by your insurance provider to wear compression stockings for a prescribed period of time before additional treatments are covered. Your ultrasound exam can also help us determine the optimal strength you need in compression stockings to effectively reduce uncomfortable symptoms and prevent your varicose veins from worsening.
At Vein Specialists of the Carolinas, we offer venous examinations in our ICAVL-accredited vascular lab. The examination includes the ultrasound assessment, digital photography of your legs and a consultation with Dr. Draughn. Once your examination is complete, we also offer a variety of minimally-invasive vein treatment options that allow us to customize your procedure to your specific needs. To learn more, contact Vein Specialists of the Carolinas at 704-861-2072 or 704-544-5245.