Varicose Veins – A Medical Problem?

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Did you know varicose veins can be a medical problem, and if so, most insurance companies will reimburse the treatment? Here’s a question, which of the following leg symptoms can be caused by varicose veins: tired, achy, heavy, swollen, itchy, crampy, restless, throbbing, or pain? Answer: ALL of the above. Varicose veins can cause any of the above symptoms and can be a medical problem. 

Because genetics is one of the most common causes of varicose veins, it is said, “Varicose veins are caused by an improper selection of grandparents.” Jobs requiring long standing, pregnancy, and hormones also contribute.  

Normal leg veins work against gravity taking blood from the legs back to the heart. One way flow valves in leg veins help prevent blood from flowing backwards, or refluxing, toward the feet. Sometimes the valves malfunction, and blood refluxes and pools in the legs causing veins to distend, bulge and become varicose veins. The pooling causes legs to be heavy, achy, tired and other symptoms above, especially at the end of the day. After years and years of reflux, the pressure in the veins actually increases and may cause skin changes, pigmentation and in severe cases, even venous ulcers.  

With a special ultrasound in a standing position, a qualified, venous ultrasound technician can map your veins and check for reflux in your veins. Most clinics specializing in veins have such a technician. These technicians also look at the leg’s major superficial veins, the great saphenous and small saphenous veins, which lie under the surface of the skin. These veins, when abnormal and refluxing, are usually the root of most varicose vein medical problems.

There are many treatments for varicose veins including injecting the veins with chemicals to close the vein (sclerotherapy) or removing short segments of varicose veins through tiny two to three millimeter puncture marks (microphlebectomy.) One of the latest techniques for treating the great saphenous and small saphenous veins is to use a laser to ablate, or close the veins. Laser ablation and microphlebectomy treatments are short office procedures done with mild sedation. There is little or no down time, and most patients resume usual activities the same day.

What happened to the old horrible vein strippings of yore? They are obsolete for laser ablation has replaced old stripping. Final question, What is a varicose vein specialist called?Answer: a Phlebologist!  

Lindy McHutchison, MD


Durham, NC


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