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Published on September 17, 2018

woman with varicose veins

Straightforward Treatment for Varicose Veins

Pain and itching in the legs, and sometimes ulcers on the skin that can burst and bleed; these make up the unappealing aspects of chronic venous reflux disease, often rooted in varicose veins.

With more than 3 million Americans facing the unpleasant reality of this condition, understanding what varicose veins really are – and what they are not – is important.

“When we address varicose veins, we treat the symptoms. Varicose veins are usually not an indicator of an underlying heart condition,” said Dustin Weiss, MD, a vascular surgeon with Avera Heart Hospital. “Varicose veins sometimes can present without venous reflux, but that is a common cause, and it happens when the small valves in veins fail to keep blood flowing normally.”

Weiss said the initial discomfort of itching and pain usually leads people to realize they face issues with varicose veins. Chronic pain, especially when sitting or standing, can follow, and in the worst cases, bleeding sores can occur. But the treatments – most of which can take place in an office procedure – provide relief.

Finding and Treating Varicose Veins

Symptoms may start as nothing noticeable and then become more significant. Since the veins involved are closer to the skin, they may also be visible to the eye.

“In the effort to teach people about vascular conditions like varicose veins, it’s important to spell out the difference between them and what is called deep-vein thrombosis, or DVT,” said Weiss. “DVT is a more serious condition and can result in blood clots. It comes with a sudden onset of swelling, especially in one leg. This condition can be life-threatening – you should seek medical aid right away.”

That’s not the case with the tenderness and irritation of varicose veins.

Specialists begin by identifying the troublesome vein through ultrasound. They then can insert a catheter to fix the issue.

“In the past, an incision would be used. Now we can use laser or radio-frequency approaches to scar the vein and remove the pressure that is leading to the issues,” Weiss said. “In cases where ulcers have formed, we may need to remove the vein. In all cases, we’re hoping to remove the pressure that is leading to the issues the patient is facing.”

First Steps

People facing varicose vein troubles should speak with their family physician, and in most cases, they can get some help using compression stockings. If that initial treatment doesn’t bring relief, your doctor may refer you to a specialist.

“Varicose veins are pretty common, and we can make sure the pain that sometimes comes with them is addressed in a timely fashion,” Weiss said. “While the good news is they do not point to a bigger problem, the bad news is some people just put up with them when they could get them treated to relieve pressure, pain and discomfort.”

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