Finding relief from varicose veins
Varicose veins are abnormal, swollen veins that have many causes, including standing for long periods of time and obesity. They are especially common in women and are even more likely after one or more pregnancies, but sometimes they are simply genetic.
If you have varicose veins, you know they may be more than just an aesthetic problem. Varicose veins can cause swelling, pain, numbness, itchiness and fatigue–and may present health hazards.
“With varicose veins, some of the veins in the leg are not functioning properly and are allowing blood to flow in the wrong direction,” says Dr. Chad Jacobs, a vascular surgeon at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
“Healthy leg veins have valves that open and close to make sure blood goes to the heart, but only in one direction. Varicose veins develop when the valves no longer function and blood goes in both directions, increasing the pressure and making the veins wider,” explains Dr. Jacobs.
Spider veins, often found on the face and legs, are caused by the dilation of a small group of veins near the skin’s surface. They often look like red or purple web patterns and are also more common in women.
“If left untreated, varicose and spider veins can worsen over time,” says Dr. Jacobs.
“The good news is that the underlying cause of varicose veins, spider veins and heavy, achy legs can be treated with a simple outpatient procedure, which means you are back to normal activity within one to two days.”
Before undergoing the outpatient procedure, patients first consult a vein specialist and have an ultrasound done to determine which veins are not working properly.
The procedure, known as endovenous saphenous vein ablation, uses heat from either laser or radiofrequency to reduce varicose veins. “The procedure shuts off the veins that are not working properly and redirects the blood to other veins that are working better,” explains Dr. Jacobs.
Done through an IV puncture in the leg, the procedure leaves no incisions and allows patients to return to work and normal activities almost immediately.
“After the procedure, varicose veins start to shrink away, and within two to three months, they start to look and feel much better,” adds Dr. Jacobs. “And because the underlying problem has been treated, the risk of them coming back is minimal.”
Patients should schedule an appointment or screening with a vascular surgeon to determine if they can benefit from this minimally invasive procedure.
If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you should be screened.
- Do you or have you ever had varicose veins?
- Do you experience leg pain, aching, cramping or heaviness?
- Do you experience leg or ankle swelling, especially at the end of the day? Do you experience restless legs?
- Do you have skin discoloration or texture changes?
- Do you have open wounds or sores?
About the Author
Sonja Vojcic, health enews contributor, is a marketing manager at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill. She has several years of international public relations and marketing experience with a Master’s degree in Communications from DePaul University. In her free time, Sonja enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, and keeping up with the latest health news and fashion trends.