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Varicose veins can lead to serious health complications.

Varicose veins can lead to serious health complications

If you suffer from varicose veins, there may be more at stake than your ability to wear shorts with confidence. Purple or blue veins that are knotted and clearly visible above the skin can lead to venous reflux disease, or venous insufficiency, a condition that causes significant discomfort in the legs and can decrease a person’s activity levels.

This disease occurs when leg veins prevent blood from traveling efficiently to the heart. “Venous reflux disease is fairly complex,” says Garnet Craddock, M.D., a general surgeon at Southern Vein Care a Service of Piedmont Physicians Group.

“We used to think of this disease as being just varicose veins or unsightly veins people were uncomfortable with. More recently, we’ve learned it’s a problem that occurs when people develop heaviness, tenderness or tiredness in their legs as the day progresses. They end up putting their legs up and not being active.”

Not only is this condition painful, it can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and subsequently, serious illness. As numerous studies have proven, the more sedentary a person’s lifestyle, the higher their risk of developing heart disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke, diabetes and a host of other conditions that can result in early death.

Early Treatment is Key

If you notice veins that are visible above the skin or have discomfort in your legs, it’s never too early to talk with your physician. “Early treatment does several things,” says Dr. Craddock. “One, it keeps us more active and prevents heart and peripheral artery diseases.

Secondly, it can prevent problems with severe leg swelling, which can lead to ulceration and dermatitis, a thickening of the skin on the lower extremities that can be painful and persist for the rest of your life.”

Diagnosing and Treating Venous Reflux Disease

“Diagnosis is fairly simple. We do an ultrasound study that takes about an hour,” he says. Similar to a deep vein thrombosis study in which leg veins are examined for clots, a venous insufficiency study measures reflux in the superficial and deep veins to determine their leakage rates. “We can then formulate a plan of treatment,” says Dr. Craddock.

“In the past, we’ve done vein stripping. These days, we utilize endovenous ablation, during which we heat-seal veins from the inside. This is a fairly simple technique that takes about 30 minutes."

Many patients are told to walk or stay active for about two hours after the procedure to prevent deep vein thrombosis. “Venous disease is a process that develops very slowly,” he says. “There are many patients who don’t know they are having a significant amount of problems until we give them support hose and they elevate their legs. Then they notice how much they have been putting up with for years.”

Anyone who experiences heaviness and tiredness in their legs or restless leg syndrome to a significant degree will often see tremendous benefits from treatment, says Dr. Craddock. “Our whole purpose is to keep people active so they can live a healthy and fruitful life.” To learn more about venous reflux disease, visit Southern Vein Care.

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