Varicose veins occur when damaged veins have trouble getting blood from the legs back to the heart. They can be painful and be a sign of a serious health issue. Toby Cole, MD, interventional radiologist and medical director with The Vein Specialists of Carolina Vascular, helps separate truths and myths about varicose veins.
- Myth: Varicose veins are nothing more than unsightly.
- Truth: Spider veins – fine veins under the skin – are merely cosmetic. However, swollen, bulging veins known as varicose veins are more serious. If untreated, they can lead to more severe medical conditions like leg swelling, skin discoloration, hemorrhaging and difficult-to heal wounds. “This disease is progressive and should not be ignored,” said Dr. Cole.
- Myth: Varicose veins are an older person’s condition.
- Truth: About half of people with varicose veins are under age 50. “Contributing factors include family history, childbirth, obesity and occupations requiring prolonged sitting or standing,” said Dr. Cole.
- Myth: Insurance doesn’t cover treatment for varicose veins.
- Truth: Many insurance companies cover treatment when symptoms are present.
- Myth: Surgery is the only option for treating varicose veins.
- Truth: A common treatment for varicose veins is minimally invasive thermal ablation of refluxing veins. The procedure is performed in the office as an outpatient. Ultrasound guidance is used to access the vein and the laser is placed into position for thermal ablation. The bulging veins are then removed through very small 2-3 mm incisions. “The good news is treatment is a routine procedure done every day with very good outcomes,” said Dr. Cole.
- Myth: Recovery for thermal ablation means being bedridden for a long time.
- Truth: Patients are asked to stay active with light activity following treatment. Walking 30 minutes per day is recommended the day of the procedure, and for 2 weeks following the procedure, just no heavy lifting or very strenuous activity for two weeks, until the inflammation subsides.
- Myth: Varicose veins can be prevented.
- Truth: No, since heredity, childbirth and occupations are risk factors. “Elevating your legs, wearing compression socks and losing weight can relieve some symptoms, but won’t prevent the onset,” said Dr. Cole.
Toby Cole, MD, is an interventional radiologist and medical director with The Vein Specialists of Carolina Vascular.