Varicose veins? Solast century! But today’s surgical fix is high-tech and modern.
Veins make up our circulatory system along with arteries and capillaries. They are the highways, roads, and bridges that move our oxygen-rich blood to feed all parts of our body. “Your heart takes the blood, and sends it to the lungs, to get the red blood cells with the oxygen, and pumps it down to your toes,” says Dr. John Hogg of the Medical Vein Clinic.
Veins in our legs then send the blood, back up, and around and around it goes.
But, sometimes it doesn’t go back up, and then you’ve got something called venous insufficiency.
A healthy, elastic vein is strong, fighting gravity to push blood up. But weak veins are loose, so the blood sits in the vein, causing it to bulge, becoming a varicose vein.
Losing vein elasticity impedes circulation, and that is when Dr. Hogg, steps in.
“Venous reflux is a medical term when the veins in your legs are stretched out, and they start letting the blood fall back down.”
A sedentary lifestyle brings most patients into the clinic.
“We were designed to roam the earth. To hunt and gather, long before sofas, cars and T.V. came into play. So, we see more problems as people move less,” says Hogg.
Varicose veins aren’t just for middle-aged ladies anymore.
A 26-year-old male patient looked down one day and saw blood everywhere. A vein in his calf was so weakened that it burst.
Hogg says among the many reasons to exercise is that developed muscles, assist the veins. “When you walk, the muscles squeeze the vein,” and swoosh it back to the heart.
Compression stockings also help circulation.
And no, the tight socks and stockings aren’t just for the infirm.Hogg says professional athletes wear them!
“They can get a 25% to 30% increase in performance … because they are delivering that much more oxygen to their legs,” he says.
He wears them. Hogg is tall, so compression socks help his blood to travel the distance.
“The blood shoots up, and it stays up. It doesn’t fall back down.”
We just want the legs moving.
One thing he suggests to patients is to wear them on the airplane. “As you sit in that plane, the blood goes down, but it is not returned, because you are not moving your legs.”
Airline travel restricts us from moving much, so these tight stockings, which can be a challenge to put on, keep the blood flowing, reducing the risk of a DVT, a “deep vein thrombosis,” or blood clot, from developing.
Simple toe raises flex the calf muscles, helping blood flow.“You will move 90% of your blood when you flex your calf,” says Hogg.
Who is likely, to develop varicose veins? “The most common cause is heredity. Itruns in families. Second most common is profession. It is the 21st-century phenomena where we sit behind a desk, standing at a counter, driving a truck or car all day … on long flights, too.”
Pregnant women suffer varicose veins because of the extra pressure and weight, so compression stockings are highly recommended for them. But “once veins are stretched out, it is a progressive disease,” says Hogg, with a distended vein, never to be taut again. Burning, or itching legs, cramping, heavy legs, “restless legs syndrome,” may indicate “venous insufficiency.” Occasionally, the legs or ankles may darken from the stalled blood’s iron.Spider veins are a symptom, as are those that zig-zag.
“The ones we close, if they are leaking, are skin veins, on the outside of the leg. The skin and fatty tissue on the outside doesn’t have much support, so it is easy for those veins to stretch out over time.”
“Deep” veins are inside of the muscle, veins less likely, to go bad. “The muscle keeps them, from becoming stretched out,” explains Hogg.
The good news is that fixing bulging veins, is out-patient surgery. “You walk in and walk out. We never put anyone to sleep. We use a little local numbing medicine as if you had a filling done at the dentist.”
“It is done by putting a catheter, or needle, inside of the vein, a ‘radiofrequency ablation’…a thermal method that uses heat.”
Hogg is such a believer in moving; his post-op instructions are a walk in the park.
“We say go to the mall and go walking. Go shopping.”
By Berit Mason