Have you ever given much thought to your veins? Veins are important because they push oxygen-depleted blood up through internal valves
to your heart so the blood can be oxygenated and recycled into your body.
Over time, things like a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, and yes, gravity, can potentially weaken those valves, causing blood to flow downward and collect in the legs (called Chronic Venous Disease).
“It’s like having a leaky pipe in your wall and finding a wet basement carpet,” said vascular surgeon Paula Muto, MD, CEO and Founder of UBERDOC. “The skin discolors and symptoms can range from pain, itchiness, or even restless leg syndrome.”
Other symptoms of venous disease include numbness, leg swelling (edema), varicose veins, and spider veins, and, if left untreated, eventually chronic venous insufficiency, ulcers, and blood clots. Vein issues can be a true medical issue.
Venous disease affects a large part of the population, said vein specialist Tania Velez Calao, MD of EliteHealth in Miami, and “there is no specific age or sex group for the development of venous disease,” she said. The good news is that diagnosis and treatment is far easier than it was in the past, major surgery is almost never necessary, and medically significant vein issues are often covered by insurance.
Once diagnosed, you might be asked to wear compression stockings to improve blood flow, and to start walking, cycling, doing yoga, and stretching. Thomas E. Eidson, DO, a vein specialist in Arlington, Texas, reminds patients that most insurance companies require trying compression socks for relief before further treatment is allowed. They may assist with the symptoms, but will not fix the underlying problem.
Rimas Gilvydis, MD, a board certified nterventional radiologist with Gilvydis Vein Clinic, reminds patients “remember that while exercise can help ease the uncomfortable symptoms of vein disease, exercise cannot make varicose veins go away,” he said.
What to do for those unsightly veins? There are vein ablation therapies available, such as sclerotherapy, which uses a chemical to collapse the vein; radiofrequency or laser ablations, which uses light or heat; and vein ligations or stripping, which involves surgically removing the diseased veins. It depends on the severity as to which therapy would be considered the best treatment option.
The newest treatment option for Venous Insufficiency is called VenaSeal and uses a medical glue delivered directly inside the veins to treat the underlying cause of the vein problems. It is the most medically advanced treatment option available and is very safe and very effective, though it is not currently covered by insurance. — Dr. Thomas E. Eidson, DO, Vein Specialist, Arlington, TX
Tips at Home
"Currently, no oral medication has been proven effective for the treatment of venous insufficiency but there are some things patients can try on their own. Get more exercise, especially walking. It can help increase blood flow. Avoid prolonged periods of standing or sitting which can make the fluid pool in the legs and aggravate the symptoms of venous insufficiency. And keep legs raised above the heart when lying down. This reduces swelling."
-- Dr. Danny Le, Cardiology Partners