Senior Connect Kingsport Quarterly Article (Summer) # 5073899
Forty million people are affected by a vein disorder – are you one of them?
Bumps, visible veins and bulges on your legs aren’t just signs of aging. If you’re like 40 percent of women and 25 percent of men in the United States, you might be suffering from venous disease and varicose veins.
This uncomfortable, sometimes unsightly disorder can have a negative effect on your self-esteem, mobility and health. Fortunately, there are options – and treatments – available.
What causes varicose veins?
Your veins have valves that channel blood to and from the heart. But when those valves become damaged, blood can pool and enlarge the vein, which causes varicose veins.
Certain genetic and lifestyle factors can also increase your risk, such as:
- Family members with varicose veins
- Hormonal changes, such with puberty, pregnancy or menopause
- Jobs that require you to sit or stand for long periods of time without much movement
- Pressure on the veins of the pelvis, such as with pregnancy
While not all venous disease can be prevented, some people can delay the onset of varicose veins by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly or wearing support hose, which can be purchased at local pharmacies.
What happens if varicose veins aren’t treated?
Aside from their appearance, varies veins can result in several adverse consequences, such as progressive pain, fatigue and swelling. Legs can also itch, cramp and develop ulcers that are difficult to heal.
Left untreated, varicose veins can also lead to more severe conditions such as:
- Hyperpigmentation, where patches of skin become darker in color
- Lipodermosclerosis, a potentially painful inflammation of the lower legs
- Spontaneous bleeding
- Superficial thrombophlebitis, or blood clots near the surface of the skin
You don’t have to live with discomfort.
Vascular physicians, who specialize in the treatment of arteries, veins and lymphatic systems, can diagnose varicose veins. Some vascular physicians – such as those with the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute’s Vein Care Center – also hold specific qualifications and training to treat and potentially eliminate varicose veins.
What is endovenous laser treatment?
Endovenous laser treatment – EVLT – is a relatively painless laser procedure that eliminates varicose veins in men and women. This non-surgical technique is performed at the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute’s Vein Care Center, and it usually takes less than an hour.
With EVLT, a needle is inserted into the affected vein, and a very thin laser fiber is then inserted and directed to the problem spot. When the laser is activated, it delivers thermal energy, causing the vein to close and heal.
Since EVLT only requires mild, local anesthetic, most people resume normal activities the same day as their treatment. And many people see results almost immediately.
Not a candidate for EVLT? The heart institute’s vein care experts offer additional services to alleviate varicose veins, including:
- Sclerotherapy, an injection used to eliminate spider and reticular veins, as well as larger varicose veins-
- Phlebectomy and microphlebectomy, which are procedures to remove surface veins. They’re performed under a mild, local anesthetic and can be done alone or in conjunction with EVLT and sclerotherapy.
This article is by Dr. William Messerschmidt, MD, who is a cardiothoracic surgeon with the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute. He is a regional leader in beating-heart bypass surgery who has expanded his skills to treat patients suffering from varicose veins and venous disease.
If varicose veins are affecting your quality of life, contact a physician. Visit wellmont.org/MyHeart or call 423-282-5054 to learn more.