It’s not even the end of the day and you can’t wait to sit down and put your feet up. The heaviness, aching and throbbing you feel in your lower extremities may even be clearly visible by the bluish trails along your legs. If so, you probably dislike what you see as much as the discomfort it causes.
This spring many women and men alike will stand in the closet deciding “Pants or shorts?” when they look down and are reminded of how self-conscious they were last summer of their unattractive Varicose and Spider Veins. An estimated 25 million Americans suffer from a disorder called Superficial Venous Reflux. Reports show that up to 50% of women and 30% of men will have varicose and/or spider veins before they turn 50 years old. Many studies suggest that those percentages increase to 70% of Women and 50% of Men by age 70.
What is Superficial Venous Reflux?
Superficial Venous Reflux is a condition that develops when the valves in the legs that usually help blood flow upward towards the heart become damaged or diseased. The faulty valves allow blood to literally flow backwards when your legs are below your body. When a person with poorly functioning valves stands up, the blood flow actually reverses and flows down the superficial veins, rather than upward toward the heart. As the blood pools in the legs the pressure builds up against the walls of the vein causing the vein to become distended and engorged. There multiple reasons the valves malfunction but the result is the same.
How do I know if I have Superficial Venous Reflux?
What are the symptoms? Some people will know they have a problem simply by looking down at their legs. For some the large veins under the skin may appear swollen, kinked, twisted or ropey. They may appear bluish in color. These are known as the Varicose Veins which occur with Superficial Venous Reflux. For others the variety of colors ranging from red to purple to brown may form unattractive web like patterns on one or more areas of the skin of the leg. These web patterns are known as Spider Veins and also occur with Superficial Venous Reflux. The physical symptoms of Venous Reflux can range from leg pain, heaviness, tiredness, throbbing, aching, stinging and burning, to restless legs, swelling and dermatitis. When the problem becomes so severe that the nutrition to the skin becomes compromised patients will get ulcerations of the lower leg. Varicose Veins are also prone to developing superficial thromboplebits, which is a blood clot along with inflammation of a segment of vein. Although clots in the superficial veins are usually harmless, they may appear red and swollen with tenderness and pain over the affected area and feel hard or firm to touch. Anytime you suspect a clot in your leg you should see your health care provider as clots in the deep venous system are much more serious. Many of these symptoms plague millions of Americans. Clearly Varicose and Spider Veins are not just a cosmetic issue.
What factors contribute to Varicose and Spider Veins?
While the symptoms associated with Varicose and Spicer Veins are worsened by prolonged standing a variety of factors can aggravate the situation. Genetics seems to be the biggest influence over any other factor. Leg trauma or straining from lifting heavy objects may also contribute to the formation of these veins. While these vein conditions can occur at any age the incidence increases with age and it does not discriminate due to gender or race. There is an increase occurrence in people with jobs that demand extended periods of sitting or standing which increases the blood pressure in the veins and weaken the valve function. This plagues a variety of professions from street vendors to surgeons, secretaries to corporate executives, and teachers to traffic cops to name a few. Obesity contributes to the occurrence due to the added pressure on the veins in the legs. The fluctuating hormone levels during puberty, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, menopause and the use of the birth control pill is recognized as a potential cause of varicose veins. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to varicose and spider veins, not only because of the fluctuating hormone levels, but also due to the increased volume of blood in the veins and the greater pressure on the veins in the pelvic area due to the growing uterus. Most people will agree that once you have varicose and spider veins they seem to just get worse over time.
What can be done to treat Varicose and Spider Veins?
Conservative therapy relieves the symptoms but does not treat the underlying cause. Conservative treatment includes losing and controlling weight, elevating your legs several times a day, avoiding prolonged periods of sitting and standing, adopting a regular exercise routine and taking over the counter medication for the discomfort. Compression stockings may be used to prevent the blood from pooling in the legs. While compression stocking do offer relief, may people find them hot in the summer and unattractive to wear with shorts and skirts in the summer. After trying conservative therapy many patients prefer a more permanent solution. Until recently the treatment was surgical vein stripping, not only did it leave several scars up and down the leg, the recovery was very painful and debilitating with a great deal of bruising.
Is there an easier way to treat this problem?
Many patients can now find relief both cosmetically and symptomatically with a less invasive procedure. It is Dr. Draughn’s belief that any time you use a less invasive procedure to accomplish the same result it’s an improvement in medical care. Dr. Draughn uses the VNUS Closure procedure to treat his patients with Superficial Venous Reflux. This procedure is performed in his office and is covered by most insurance providers. With the VNUS Closure procedure a thin catheter is inserted in to the vein through a small incision in the skin. The catheter delivers radiofrequency (RF) energy to the vein wall, causing it to heat, collapse and seal shut. Once the diseased vein is closed, other healthy veins take over and empty blood from your legs. The procedure takes approximately 45-60 minutes and patients typically spend 2-3 hours at the office due to normal pre- and post- treatment procedures. Patients who have undergone the procedure report feeling little, if any, pain during and after the VNUS Closure.
How long will I have to be off my feet after the procedure and when will I notice improvement of my symptoms?
Many patients (89%) can resume normal activities within a day and report minimal to no scarring, bruising or swelling after the procedure. While some patients report immediate improvement in their symptoms most patients report noticeable improvement in their symptoms within 1-2 weeks following the procedure.
Who can benefit from this procedure?
While experience has shown that the majority of patients with Superficial Venous Reflux can be treated effectively with the VNUS Closure, Dr. Draughn requires his patients to undergo a thorough evaluation in his office prior to recommending the procedure.
How effective is the VNUS Closure?
Published data suggests that two years after treatment, 90% of the treated veins remain closed and free from reflux, the underlying cause of varicose veins. 98% of patients who have undergone the VNUS Closure procedure are willing to recommend it to a friend or family member with similar leg problems.