As many as 40 million Americans have varicose veins, and many who have them think it is something they have to live with, but they don’t have to. Minimally invasive treatments have made treating varicose veins a quick, easy and relatively painless process. Plus, the majority of insurance companies and Medicare will cover the procedure if patients meet certain criteria.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and twisted due to increased venous pressure that results from leaky valves. Carilion Clinic vascular surgeon, Ashish Raju, M.D., explained that to push blood back to your heart, your veins rely on a network of valves that alternately open to allow blood through and then close to prevent backflow. In varicose veins, the valves do not work properly, allowing blood to pool in the vein (usually in your legs and feet), making it difficult for the muscles to push the blood back up. As blood continues to pool in the vein, increased venous pressure causes the vein branches to bulge and twist and become varicose.
“The extra time that the blood spends in the legs causes not only the enlarged, bulging vein, but it can result in a throbbing, aching or burning pain,” said Dr. Raju. “In addition, the longer the blood sits in those veins, the more pressure it puts on the skin, which can cause brown skin pigmentations and ulcers that can be difficult to treat.”
Other symptoms can include unexplained leg swelling or bleeding episodes from the vein itself.
What causes varicose veins?
Genetics are thought to play a role in contributing to varicose veins, but there are several factors that can increase your risk. Unfortunately ladies, being female is one of them. Other risk factors for both men and women include:
- Being overweight
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Having a deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
How can I get rid of varicose veins?
Before determining a treatment plan, your doctor will want to take a closer look at your varicose veins and will most likely perform a duplex ultrasound test. The painless test uses sound waves to visualize the vein structure and the blood flow in the veins.
“It is important to do an ultrasound first to see what is going on underneath the skin,” noted Dr. Raju. “Even though you can usually easily see the varicose veins on a patient’s legs you have to make sure that there is nothing more serious going on underneath the skin such as a blood clot or deep vein reflux.”
Once Dr. Raju has completed the ultrasound test, he will prescribe a conservative treatment regiment for his patients first.
“I usually have patients wear compression stockings, exercise and keep their legs elevated when possible for about a three month period,” he said. “Then I will do a follow-up appointment to see how things are going. If they are still having pain despite this management and meet certain criteria, we can offer the endovenous ablation procedure to treat the leaky vein.”
The ablation therapy (which can use either laser or radiofrequency energy as the heat source) is an outpatient procedure that usually takes less than 30 minutes. There is very little downtime or pain for the patient.
“The incision is so small that we usually only put a thin band aid on,” explained Dr. Raju. “We do ask patients to wear a compression wrap for about 48 hours, but they can still move around. After 48 hours, they can take the dressing off and go right back to their normal activities without restrictions.”
Dr. Raju also noted that most of his patients generally have no pain issues, and if they do, they usually only need to take Tylenol.
“All of my patients walk right out of the procedure center on their own after the treatment,” he said. How can I help prevent varicose veins? Some people are genetically predisposed to varicose veins, but there are some things you can do to help decrease your risk. Try the following:
- Maintain a proper weight
- Elevate your legs when resting
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Wear compression (elastic support) stockings if you are going to be standing or sitting for long periods of time
If you have varicose veins, don’t think that you have to live with them. Talk to your doctor about treatment.
Dr. Raju is the only board certified vascular surgeon performing this procedure in the New River Valley. And he also treats the entire spectrum of venous disease, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT), reflux, and wound complications.
Dr. Raju serves patients at three convenient locations in the New River Valley:
- 2900 Lamb Circle, Suite 302, Christiansburg, VA 24073
- 1150 Holston Road, Wytheville, VA 24382
- 1 Taylor Ave., Second Floor, Pearisburg, VA 24134
Call 844-252-2268 for more information or an appointment.