Varicose Veins Frequently Asked Questions

What are spider veins (varicose veins)?

Varicose veins are leg veins that have grown large and swollen due to defective valves. They may become winding, protrude from the skin and/or become blue over time.

Are all varicose veins the same?

No. There are three venous systems—deep, superficial and perforators—all of which can be affected by varicose veins. Many factors contribute to the severity of varicose veins, including what system is affected, risk factors and the individual’s unique anatomy. As such, vascular surgeons rate the severity of varicose veins as one of six classes corresponding to the severity of the condition. Every individual is different, and no one treatment is the best for all situations. 

Why should I choose Swedish Hospital for my varicose vein treatment?

Dr. Michael Shao is a board-certified vascular surgeon at Swedish Hospital and a leading specialist for treatment of varicose veins in Chicago. When you visit a vascular surgeon, meet with a physician who has received extensive training in their area of specialty. Due to Dr. Shao’s expertise, Swedish Hospital offers ClariVein®, Varithena® and VenaSeal®, three new FDA-approved treatments for treating varicose veins, not widely available elsewhere. These outpatient treatments allow you to return to regular activity that same day.

Are varicose veins only a problem for older women?

No. Varicose veins can affect all individuals of any age and gender. Although they are more common among women over the age of 40, we have treated many patients in their 20s and 30s. The patients we have treated range in age from 21 to 92. It is also a misconception that varicose veins only affect women. We have treated numerous men for the issue. Over 10 million men in America suffer from varicose veins. 

Why does pregnancy cause or exacerbate varicose veins?

There are two reasons for this. Having a baby is like having a bowling ball press on the inferior vena cava (IVC), the main vein that carries blood to the heart from the lower extremities. Second, the hormones of pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone, cause the veins to enlarge or dilate. Many women report that they first notice varicose veins during their pregnancy and that they get progressively worse with each one. 

Will removing or destroying varicose veins affect blood flow?

No. Closing a dysfunctional varicose vein will actually improve blood flow back to the heart. The human body is extremely adaptive and normal veins will take over to more effectively return blood back to the heart. 

What happens if I do not treat my varicose veins?

Varicose veins can grow worse over time. If left untreated, varicose veins may cause conditions such as inflamed veins or chronic wounds or ulcers

How do you diagnose varicose veins?

Varicose veins are diagnosed through the combined efforts of a specially trained ultrasound technician and a physician. Using ultrasound, technicians assess the function of the valves in the veins and map out the anatomy of any veins with malfunctioning valves.

How to get rid of varicose veins? 

Each individual patient is unique with regard to anatomy and clinical symptoms. It is the job of the vascular surgeon to match the right treatment modality to the right patient scenario and the right anatomy to achieve optimal results. 

How to prevent varicose veins?

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent varicose veins, but you can control some of the symptoms by maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time when possible and wearing prescription-grade compression stockings.

Contact Us

Call 773-989-3957 to schedule an appointment to treat your varicose veins. 

If you have further questions not answered above, please contact Dr. Shao at and he will contact you within two business days. If this is a medical emergency, please visit the nearest Emergency Department. 

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