Spectrum Health Vein Center practice manager Chelsea Schrot and certified sclerotherapy nurse Sarah Minger are shown.If you have spider or varicose veins, you’re in the majority. And yes, that majority includes plenty of men.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 50 percent to 55 percent of adult women will face abnormal leg veins and 40 percent to 45 percent of men will join the club.

If you’re one of us, have you ever wondered about those vein treatment ads and whether they really work? Are they safe? Are spider veins and varicose veins the same thing?

We’ve got answers–in plenty of time for shorts season, too.

Health Beat caught up with Spectrum Health Vein Center practice manager Chelsea Schrot and certified sclerotherapy nurse Sarah Minger to get the skinny on varicose veins and how the center can help.

About varicose veins and causes

Health Beat: Even though it’s hard to believe that shorts season will ever arrive, we can hope, right?

Chelsea Schrot: We can hope–and I can help you understand how to look and feel your best when it gets here, at least as far as your varicose veins are concerned.

HB: Great. For starters, can you tell us what varicose veins really are?

CS: Absolutely. Varicose veins are enlarged veins that you can see through the skin. You probably know they can be blue or purple and what they look like: twisted or knotted cords. They are most commonly found on the legs, but can appear other places as well. Spider veins are a milder form of varicose veins. They are smaller and closer to the surface, so they can look like a sunburst or spider web. They are deep red or blue and most often appear on the face and legs.

HB: What causes varicose veins?

CS: Veins have valves in them to control blood flow. When the valves can’t close 100 percent, blood can leak backwards. This creates the potential for it to pool behind the valve–creating the bulge you see. That ultimately can grow into the twisty, bumpy appearance.

The legs fall prey most often because the veins in the legs have to work the hardest to pump blood all the way–against gravity–back to the heart.

HB: So leaky valves cause them. What causes leaky valves?

CS: Lots of contributors. First of all, just the general aging process. None of us can escape that. Pregnancy is a big one, too. Obesity, which makes it harder to pump blood overall. Hormone replacement therapy may even contribute–female hormones make vein walls relax. Also, family history plays a big role. And if you sit or stand for long periods of time, you are very likely to see varicose veins develop.

Varicose vein symptoms and risks

Spectrum Health Vein Center practice manager Chelsea Schrot and certified sclerotherapy nurse Sarah Minger are shown.HB: Do varicose veins pose health risks, or are they mainly a cosmetic problem? Sarah, what can you tell us?

Sarah Minger: First of all, I strongly feel that nobody should have to live in pain. Varicose veins are rarely life or death, but depending on the cause, they can increase serious risks.

Generally, they cause burning, aching pain. Your legs can feel heavy and fatigued. They can swell, making the skin itchy and irritated from compromised circulation. Daily activities can become painful, or you may even avoid doing them. This affects quality of life and a healthy activity level. If you have venous disease and don’t treat it, more dangerous risks, such as blood clots, can occur.

Varicose veins may be an early symptom of something else. In many cases, there is a lot more to it than just a cosmetic problem.

What do people need to know about the Vein Center?

HB: If I am a lucky member of the minority of people whose varicose veins are strictly a cosmetic concern, could I still come to the Spectrum Health Vein Center?

SM: Absolutely, yes, and we encourage you to do so. There are many retail outlets, or medi-spas that offer varicose vein treatments. You can simply call, go to the appointment and pay your money. I urge you not to make this mistake.

The reality is that if you have varicose veins treated and there is an underlying cause, they will come back. And they often come back even worse than they were before, because the underlying cause was not identified and treated. And remember, in most of our cases, there is a medical condition. We want to make sure you are in the know before you go.

Our patients receive a medical review by our team. We do everything right here. We will gather information about your condition before your consultation. The clinical team reviews every file.

Then, we use ultrasound and other simple tests of the affected area–again, right here at the center. You’ll see a board-certified physician and have access to an on-staff vascular surgeon. You have total confidence, understanding and education, so you know your beautiful results are medically based for excellence.

HB: Does the doctor perform the vein treatments?

SM: Yes, if we find a medical condition that requires a vascular surgeon or medical doctor’s treatment. If you’re one of the lucky ones who needs only cosmetic vein treatment, I am the certified sclerotherapy care provider who will treat you.

Sclerotherapy is used to treat varicose veins. And I work directly with our on-staff doctors during the procedures.

CS: Let me add that our imaging is ICAVL accredited, which is an important designation that indicates our commitment to excellence. Even our Vein Center designation is earned through our support of education, research and top quality and safety measures. You not only get beautiful results, you get healthy, medically sound results.

HB: What about payment and does insurance cover treatments?

CS: We are fully transparent about costs. Because many people will find an underlying diagnosis, our staff handles authorizations and coverages. The majority of procedures are covered based on a diagnosis of medical need. We will estimate your out-of-pocket costs from our findings and work out a treatment plan with you. We love helping you gain comfort and confidence. It’s even better when the reasonable costs can often be covered by insurance.