Medical Update – Venous Insufficiency And Varicose Veins

By: Tracy A Lowery MD
Venous Insufficiency (poorly functioning veins) and varicose veins of the lower extremities are some of the most common medical conditions experienced by people in this country. Over 40 million Americans have some degree of venous problems making it the most common chronic medical condition in North America.

Each of us has many veins in our legs, with these veins varying in size and location. Regardless of size and location, each of these veins provides the same function. Blood that is pumped to the legs is collected by these veins and returned to the heart. If the veins are not functioning correctly the legs may develop symptoms or become varicose. Varicose veins can be seen as dilated twisted blood vessels just below the skin surface that appear bluish and may bulge when sitting or standing. Spider veins are red or blue veins on top of the skin surface.

For many years physicians have considered most problems with abnormal veins to be cosmetic and not symptomatic. We now know that poorly functioning veins not only affect the appearance of the legs, but also have a tremendous affect on how the legs feel.

Symptoms of varicose veins and venous insufficiency include pain, aching, heaviness, fatigue, swelling, and restlessness at night. These symptoms may be present with or without any veins being visible to the naked eye. These symptoms may involve one or both legs.

Anyone can develop vein problems, but the risk is increased if there is a family history of vein problems. The risk is also increased as we age, as over half of us over the age of 50, will have some degree of vein problems. Often patients will overlook subtle symptoms thinking that as they age their legs are supposed to be tired and swollen. Women have a higher incidence of vein problems than men, most likely secondary to pregnancy. Other conditions, that may increase one’s risk of developing vein problems, are obesity, sedentary life style, standing for long periods of time on hard surfaces, and jobs that require prolonged sitting or standing.

The evaluation of vein function can be determined in a few minutes by a painless, outpatient ultrasound performed in a specialty vein center. If vein function is abnormal, treatment options include both conservative treatment and more aggressive intervention.

Conservative treatment of venous insufficiency and varicose veins include increased walking, elevation of the legs, and the wearing of graded compression stockings. Stockings can be below-the-knee, thigh-high or panty hose. Stockings do a good job of minimizing leg swelling which tends to improve symptoms of varicose veins.

If conservative therapy does not noticeably improve a patient’s symptoms, then more definitive treatment is available. This treatment of abnormal veins is performed in an outpatient setting; requires no sedation, only local anesthesia; and is covered by most insurance carriers. This treatment, radiofrequency ablation, is used to not only improve the appearance of the legs but also improve the symptoms of venous insufficiency.

If you have veins visible on your legs or symptoms similar to those described above, please call Crestwood Vein Center at 256-429-5346 to schedule your evaluation.
By: Tracy A. Lowery MD
Board Certified Vascular Surgeon
Varicose Vein Specialist
Crestwood Vein Center
185 Whitesport Drive
Suite 2
Huntsville, Alabama 35801