By Dr. Boris Bergus M.D., R.V.S.
For much of our lives we go about our business relatively unconcerned with our circulatory systems. However, due to a variety of causes, varicose veins can crop up causing both cosmetic and functional problems. Once a patient notices these troublesome veins it is a wise idea to get a professional assessment. Many times patient’s primary care provider will refer them to a phlebologist specialist.
Varicose veins can be influenced by many factors including age, genetics, activity level and even type of employment. They often present as blotchy purple spider veins on the lower extremities. The reason they often appear on the lower legs has to do with gravity.
As you probably remember from high school biology, arteries take freshly oxygenated blood from the heart and, with the help of gravity, pump it away from the heart. Veins on the other hand must work against gravity as they push the blood back upwards towards the heart. As this system becomes overworked, blood can often pool in the legs and ankles forming varicose veins. In addition to an undesirable appearance, this pooling can result in pain and swelling.
The first step in addressing a problem with varicose veins is to see a specialist more commonly known as a phlebologist. After an assessment, your phlebologist will recommend a course of treatment depending on the severity of your condition. Minor conditions can often be treated with non-invasive techniques such as compression socks and herbal treatments.
If the cause is more advanced, the physician will review a number of treatment options which may include laser treatments, sclerotherapy, ultrasound and surgery among others. Often times, a specialist may combine more than one treatment in order to best address the patient’s needs.
The good news is that most cases are highly treatable and the procedures are generally well tolerated.
The first and most important step is to advocate for yourself and let your healthcare provider know you are concerned. From there, your phlebologist can best assess the treatment options that will meet your goals.
Dr. Boris Bergus M.D., R.V.S. is the director of Americas Vein Centers located in Norwood, Mass., Southborough, Mass. and East Greenwich, R. I.