Hello. Dr Lau here again. Today I wanted to share some information about Varicose Veins. Almost daily, my patients ask me “Dr Lau, what causes varicose veins and associated swelling in the legs and what can I do about them?”
Although every patient I meet is different, varicose veins are one of the most common conditions that I treat as a vascular surgeon and relate to a disruption of structures within the veins called valves.
Normally, veins have valves that allow blood to go from the feet to the heart and prevent the blood from pooling in the legs. When these valves become damaged, patients can develop varicose veins because of the higher pressure in the veins within the legs. Damage to the valves can occur from standing for extended periods of time at work or otherwise which increases stress on the valves.
Deep vein thrombosis otherwise known as a blood clot can also damage the valves irreversibly. Some patients do not stand for extended periods of time and/or have blood clots but still develop varicose veins and swelling. In these patients, genetic factors may play a role.
Due to advancements in our understanding of how the veins work and, in the technology, we use to treat veinous disease, vascular surgeons have much to offer patients with varicose veins and swelling. We always try a period of compression stockings which are effective for reducing swelling and varicose veins in up to 50% of patients. If compression stockings do not work, we can perform a procedure that heat seals or glues the veins in the legs closed so they can no longer leak. Finally, we can also investigate obstructions in the connections between the heart and the legs in the abdomen with both ultrasound and specialized x-ray machines.
A SPECIAL WORD OF CAUTION: Not all Varicose Veins are Cosmetic Problems. In fact, varicose veins can sometimes be the sign of a much more complex vascular condition and as such Vascular Surgeons are uniquely qualified to diagnose and evaluate the underlying causes for the formation of varicose veins. Clinics focusing exclusively on the treatment of varicose vein often time underdiagnose the underlying causes of these varicose veins and physicians advertising as “Vein Specialists or Vein Doctors” should be carefully evaluated before being allowed to treat your veins. Medicare as well as most commercial insurance carriers have identified strict guidelines for treating varicose veins and your treating physician must carefully follow these guidelines before treatments will be reimbursed. Many cosmetic varicose vein clinics will encourage patients to pay for cosmetic procedures in cash to avoid the guidelines established by Medicare and most major commercial insurance companies so patients must make informed decisions prior to simply paying cash to have a cosmetic procedure done.
As a vascular surgeon, I am well versed in the ways to diagnose and treat venous disease. Please do not hesitate to call to schedule an appointment if you have either varicose veins or swelling in your legs! If you or anyone you love is suffering from Varicose veins, please call our office to schedule an appointment at 408-376-3626.