What a Leg Ultrasound Can Reveal About Your Varicose Veins

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vein ultrasound on leg

If you are experiencing leg pain and discomfort, your doctor may order a vein ultrasound to determine whether poor vein health is to blame. An ultrasound is a minimally invasive imaging exam that can help diagnose a range of medical conditions, including vein disease.

Vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency, is the underlying cause of varicose veins. At USA Vein Clinics, our vein specialists are available to diagnose, treat, and provide continuing care for varicose veins and a range of venous conditions.

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What are Venous Ultrasounds?

A venous ultrasound is a type of imaging exam that uses sound waves to create real-time depictions of your veins. These images can help your doctor evaluate your vein health, diagnose varicosities, and make personalized treatment recommendations.

During a venous ultrasound, a small probe collects the sound waves reflecting off blood cells and uses a computer to create an external visual of blood flow inside the body. A vein ultrasound procedure can examine both superficial and deep veins. Ultrasound does not use radiation and should not cause any pain or discomfort.

Your doctor may order this exam to:

  • Monitor blood flow to your legs
  • Check for blockages or abnormalities
  • Detect blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Evaluate varicose veins
  • Evaluate spider veins
  • Map blood vessels to plan vein treatment
  • Provide real-time guidance during vein procedures
  • Diagnose vein disease

What Can I Expect During an Ultrasound of Leg Veins?

When you visit one of our leading vein specialists, they may recommend a leg vein anatomy ultrasound, also known as an ultrasound on legs for varicose veins. 

How long does an ultrasound of the leg take? For most patients, it can be performed in about 30 minutes.

At USA Vein Clinics, we are committed to making sure that your leg ultrasound is quick, convenient, and comfortable. To help you prepare, below are a number of things to know before, during, and after your exam.

Before your vein ultrasound:

We recommend that you be well-hydrated prior to your appointment. It can also be helpful to wear comfortable clothing. When you arrive, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown.

During your leg ultrasound:

Your ultrasound technician will begin by placing gel on the skin, which may feel cool initially. Then, they will use a handheld device called a transducer to obtain real-time imaging of your leg veins for evaluation. Depending on your positioning, you may be able to see your images appear on a small screen.

Some types of ultrasound involve lying on your back the entire time. During a leg ultrasound, your technician may ask that you stand for a portion or the duration of your exam. 

After your leg ultrasound:

You will be given a towel to clean off any residual gel from your skin. Afterward, you can change back into your regular clothing. 

Based on your ultrasound findings, your doctor will be prepared to make personalized treatment recommendations.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

If you have varicose veins, you may wonder what causes them. Vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency, is the underlying cause of varicose veins, spider veins, and a range of additional venous conditions. 

Venous insufficiency develops when veins are placed under chronic strain. When this occurs, tiny, one-way vein valves become damaged most often in the legs, ankles, and feet. This issue may lead to blood pooling, flowing backwards, or leaking into surrounding tissue.

Some individuals are more likely than others to develop vein disease. Common risk factors include:

  • Genetics: You are considered at increased risk for vein disease if you have a close relative with varicose veins.
  • Age: Although anyone can develop vein problems, venous insufficiency is more likely to occur in those over age 50.
  • Sex: Women are twice as likely as men to have varicose veins; in part, this may be because pregnancy is another risk factor.
  • Pregnancy: Women who are pregnant often develop varicose veins. In this circumstance, vein issues may resolve on their own after childbirth. 
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): Being obese or overweight can place additional strain on your veins and cause damage.
  • Diet: What you eat, or don’t eat, impacts the health of your veins. For dietary advice, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietician. 
  • Exercise: Physical activity can boost blood circulation and help prevent venous insufficiency.
  • Smoking: This unhealthy habit can cause damage to your veins and a range of serious health issues. 
  • Diabetes: Individuals with high blood sugar levels are at greater risk for vein disease.
  • High blood pressure: Hypertension can strain veins and lead to the formation of varicose veins.
  • Prolonged standing or sitting: You are more likely to develop varicose veins if you spend a lot of time standing or sitting in place.

Although sometimes considered an aesthetic issue, varicose veins can cause uncomfortable symptoms like leg swelling, cramping, itching, and fatigue. Since vein disease is a progressive condition, symptoms get worse over time. Eventually, vein pain and discomfort can impact your overall quality of life.

Whether you are concerned about current symptoms or underlying risk factors, we encourage you to consult a vein specialist. Early intervention is the best way to achieve positive health outcomes. 

What Are Potential Complications from Varicose Veins? 

Along with causing pain and discomfort, vein disease can lead to a number of dangerous health conditions. These include the formation of blood clots and venous ulcers.

Blood clots can develop in either the superficial or deep venous systems. However, blood clots located in the deep venous system, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), are generally more serious. Signs of DVT can include leg pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the affected area. If your doctor suspects DVT, they will order a deep vein thrombosis ultrasound.

When left untreated, blood clots in the deep venous system can break off and travel to the lungs. This can lead to pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening medical condition. Signs of pulmonary embolism include chest pain, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood.

If you are experiencing signs of a blood clot, DVT, or a pulmonary embolism, it is a medical emergency. You should head directly to the nearest emergency room to seek immediate care. Fortunately, treatment is available that can help stop the progression of vein disease and can prevent these serious complications.

Individuals with varicose veins are also at risk for developing venous ulcers. Venous ulcers are open, non-healing sores that usually develop on the lower legs and ankles near visible veins. In most cases, their presence is a sign of progressing vein disease. Venous ulcers are considered a serious health issue because they can lead to dangerous skin infections, such as cellulitis. 

If you notice skin changes or ulceration near varicose or spider veins, contact your doctor as soon as possible. A varicose veins ultrasound or spider veins ultrasound can assess the severity of your vein disease and help set you on the path towards better vein health.

How Can I Improve Varicose Veins?

If you suffer from varicose veins, we recommend visiting one of our leading vein specialists. They can closely monitor your disease and work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. At USA Vein Clinics, our experts are highly experienced in treating vein disease.

Our primary treatment goals include:

  • Alleviating painful and uncomfortable symptoms
  • Reducing risks for serious health issues
  • Improving quality of life

We offer a range of minimally invasive, outpatient vein treatments. Most of our treatments take about an hour, from start to finish. Afterward, you can leave immediately and the majority of patients return to most normal activities the same day.

Based on location and severity, an ultrasound vein treatment may be recommended to treat your varicose veins. All of our state-of-the-art procedures use real-time ultrasound imaging to guide treatment.

Varicose vein treatment aims to close off blood flow to diseased veins. Afterward, blood flow is diverted to healthy, surrounding ones. Over time, related leg symptoms resolve. Sometimes, multiple procedures are recommended to obtain desired treatment goals.

Your vein specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

Although certain risk factors are out of your control, healthy lifestyle modifications may be beneficial. These can also help prevent additional vein issues from developing. We generally recommend:

  • Manage your weight: Losing excess weight can help alleviate undue strain on your veins. If you need help achieving a healthy BMI, ask your doctor about the benefits of medical and commercial weight loss programs.
  • Get moving: Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week. If you are currently inactive, work your way up to this level. Walking with a friend or family member is a great way to get started.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats. It may also be beneficial to avoid sodium, sugar, alcohol, and saturated fats.
  • Quit smoking: You can improve the health of your veins, heart, and lungs by avoiding the use of tobacco products. For support, consider joining a smoking cessation program.
  • Control underlying health conditions: We suggest working closely with your doctor to control contributing health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. 
  • Avoid long periods of standing or sitting: If you have a job that requires prolonged standing or sitting, try to take frequent breaks throughout the day to move around. When stuck in place, you can try stretching and massaging your legs to get your blood flowing.

While lifestyle modifications may help prevent additional issues, treatment of the underlying condition is the only way to lessen or resolve painful symptoms.  

Request a Consultation at USA Vein Clinics

There is no reason to suffer any longer from varicose vein pain and discomfort. At USA Vein Clinics, we offer minimally invasive, outpatient vein treatment in over 90 locations nationwide. For your convenience, we also provide virtual doctor visits. Contact us today at 888.768.3467 or schedule an appointment online.

If you are concerned about your vein health, we suggest discussing venous insufficiency ultrasound with a vein specialist. This can be a good first step towards a healthier future.

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