Release Date: 2/10/2014
The health risks of unsightly veins
David J. Dobmeyer, M.D., F.A.C.C The Heart Specialty Associates
By David J. Dobmeyer, M.D., F.A.C.C
The Heart Specialty Associates
When it comes to your health, you probably have not thought to check your legs. Treating varicose veins is not just a cosmetic procedure. Sure, you’ll be happy to have your legs look better, but you’ll also be improving your health. Treatment can help painful symptoms disappear and stop more serious complications from arising by preventing more extensive vein disease from developing.
An estimated 80 million Americans suffer from venous disorders – conditions like varicose veins and spider veins. Don’t write off these conditions as merely cosmetic. Varicose veins can cause other problems, such as leg pain, swelling and cramping as well as fatigue, restlessness, itching and burning. In the worst cases, untreated venous disorders can lead to extremely painful ulcers, bleeding or blood clots.
Varicose vein problems occur when the valves in your veins fail. Those valves are supposed to help direct blood back to the heart, but when they stop working correctly, blood backs up. This backup of blood builds up pressure, causing the veins to grow and develop branches. Often these new veins bulge to the surface of the skin.
The biggest factor in whether you will develop varicose veins is out of your control – it’s your genetics. Aging makes varicose veins worse. Women are most at risk, with the risk increasing with each pregnancy. Suffering a leg injury and working a job that requires you to stand for long periods of time also increases your risk for developing varicose veins.
There are several options for treatment – from a conservative approach such as wearing compression stockings to a procedure to remove the veins. We can insert a small catheter to send heat into the vein or a medication can be injected into the vein to seal it shut. This medication can also be used to speed up the healing of ulcer damage.
Many times a combination of these treatments can be used to give the patient the best results. You may have heard about laser or light treatments. Lasers are used to treat some of the smallest spider veins. The beams create heat inside the vein leading them to seal shut and be reabsorbed by the body.
It’s important to remember, even though complications from the treatment of varicose veins are rare, there are risks as with any medical procedure. Make sure you discuss those with your doctor before undergoing any treatment. You should also keep in mind - even after treatment and proper care, like limiting how long you stand - varicose veins can return. That’s because we cannot treat the number one cause: your genetics.
Many times, diseased veins will be obvious, but not always. Sometimes they will be hidden deeper under the skin. You can ask your doctor to check for you – or you can receive a free leg screening from St. Anthony’s Medical Center. The free leg screenings are offered every Wednesday. You can call 314-ANTHONY to register.
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
Working as trusted partners, the physicians and employees of St. Anthony's Health System will deliver care distinguished by its demonstrated quality and personalized service. We will be visibly engaged in improving the health and well being of the communities we serve in South County and beyond. We will stand together, proud to set the standard for independent community health systems.