Varicose veins can be more than just unsightly – they can cause pain, swelling and leg fatigue. A combination of weakened vein walls and faulty valves can cause varicose veins. They can appear red, blue or flesh-colored. When this happens, the blood that should be moving to your heart can actually flow backward because the one-way valves in your veins aren’t working. Blood pools in the veins, pressure builds up, and the veins become weaker, eventually twisting and bulging. This can be very painful.
About 25% of the adult population in the U.S. will develop varicose veins or symptoms of chronic venous disease. The people most likely to develop varicose veins include older adults, women going through menopause, people with a family history of varicose veins, those who are required to stand for long periods of time, obese individuals, and women who are pregnant.
“While varicose veins are generally not dangerous, they are a symptom of venous insufficiency, or decreased ability to return blood efficiently from the legs to the heart,” says Ian Stines, M.D., vascular surgeon with Med Center Health’s Vein Clinic. “This can be associated with other symptoms such as heaviness, swelling, pain, and even development of wounds. Varicose veins are also occasionally associated with deep venous blood clots. Rarely, varicose veins may bleed, particularly if they are swollen. The goal of treatment is to prevent complications such as ulcers or sores as well as skin changes.”
Compression therapy is usually recommended as a first step in treatment when varicose veins are smaller and manageable. In the past, treatment for large, painful varicose veins could require surgery, which might lead to pain and scarring. Today, however, most procedures can be done in the clinic setting. “We offer relatively new therapies, including endovenous laser ablation and foam sclerotherapy, that are minimally invasive and performed as outpatient procedures right here in our Vein Clinic,” says Dr. Stines. Treatment for varicose veins not only improves appearance of the legs but can make a real difference in the way patients feel.
Endovenous laser ablation (ELA) is performed under local anesthesia. A thin fiber is inserted into the damaged vein. A laser light is emitted through the fiber, delivering just the right amount of energy to close the vein and seal it shut. These veins are superficial and only deliver around 5% of your blood flow. Afterward, the body will automatically route blood through other, healthier veins. Most patients can return to their normal activities immediately afterward.
Foam sclerotherapy is for the treatment of small varicose veins and spider veins. A chemical is injected into the vein with a small needle. The resulting irritation of the vein causes it to close and eventually be reabsorbed by the body. As with ELA, blood flow is rerouted to other veins. This treatment is minimally invasive, relatively pain-free and safe.
Most insurances will cover procedures at the Vein Clinic. “A majority of procedures we perform are for medical necessity,” Dr. Stines said. “Our focus is to provide quality care to our patients with the goal of providing symptom relief related to venous disease.”
Since it is part of Med Center Health, the Vein Clinic has access to the resources available in a larger healthcare system, which allows them to deliver high quality care. The Med Center Health Vein Clinic is located in the Riverside Professional Center on the campus of The Medical Center at Bowling Green. To make an appointment, call 270-796-3535. To learn more about vein care at Med Center Health, visit medcenterhealth.org/vein.