Why do some people get varicose veins and others do not?

Baird why some varicose veins

Varicose veins, ranging from the blue splotches of spider veins to the thick, ropey and twisted dark varicose veins that can make standing and walking painful, have much in common. They’re unsightly. They can be painful. If left untreated, they can progress to serious health problems. They’re very common: 20 percent of all adults, and 50 percent of adults over 50, experience varicose veins, predominantly women.

Varicose veins are enlarged veins in the legs near the surface of the skin, ranging from tiny to large. Most people associate varicose veins with prominent, swollen, twisted, and ropelike veins wrapping their legs, often dark blue in color – and often quite painful.

Some people do not have any troublesome symptoms at first. Mild symptoms may include:

  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Heaviness, burning, aching, tiredness, or pain in your legs, particularly when you stand or sit for a long time
  • Itchy skin over the vein

More serious symptoms may include:

  • Leg swelling
  • Swelling and calf pain after you sit or stand for long periods of time
  • Skin changes, such as skin color or dry, thin or scaling skin
  • Inflammation
  • Open sores or excessive bleeding after a minor injury

But why do some people get varicose veins, while others do not? Varicose veins can be caused simply by advancing age or pregnancy. They’re caused by weakened valves in the leg veins that flow blood back to your heart. When the valves weaken, blood pools and builds pressure in the leg veins, causing them to swell, expand and twist as the walls of the veins are weakened.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:

  • Age. The risk of varicose veins increases with age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it collects instead of flowing up to your heart.
  • Sex. Women are more likely to develop the condition. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, premenstruation or menopause may be a factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may increase your risk of varicose veins.
  • Family history. If other family members had varicose veins, there’s a greater chance you will too.
  • Obesity. Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time. Your blood doesn’t flow as well if you’re in the same position for long periods.

The weakened valves and veins are prone to clots or hemorrhaging, which is why treatment is so important.

However, not all varicose veins require clinical treatment. In mild cases, home treatment may be all you require to ease your symptoms and keep the varicose veins from getting worse. You can:

  • Exercise to strengthen the muscles and veins of the legs
  • Wear compression stockings to improve blood flow and limit vein swelling
  • Prop up your legs to allow the blood to flow out of the legs easier.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting or standing.

Most insurers typically cover treatment of the more serious, symptomatic varicose veins; some do not cover treatment for spider veins, considering it a cosmetic procedure.

If your diagnosis indicates that you need a specific treatment, our staff will submit all relevant information to your insurance company for pre-authorization, or provide you with the approximate cost of treatment.

Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

 

 

 

 

 

What is reflux in the veins?

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Most people associate varicose veins with prominent, swollen, twisted, and ropelike veins wrapping their legs, often dark blue in color – and often quite painful. These are symptomatic varicose veins. They develop over time, with factors such as age, family history, pregnancy, weight gain, and prolonged standing all possible contributing factors. They’re caused by weakened valves in the leg veins that flow blood back to your heart. When the valves weaken, blood pools and builds pressure in the leg veins, causing them to swell, expand and twist as the walls of the veins are weakened – and the weakened valves and veins are prone to clots or hemorrhaging, which is why treatment is so important.

We talked to Dr. Malcom Sydnor about varicose veins, and what the term “reflux” means. “When people have varicose that are large or substantial that is almost always a result of reflux,” said Dr. Sydnor. “What reflux means is that all the blood your body should flow in your lower extremities from your feet, back to your heart and lungs were it picks up oxygen and gets redistributed back through your body.”

“But sometimes the saphenous veins in the legs, which have valves in them to keep the blood flowing north,” he continued, “have valves that become leaky and have problems and then the blood starts falling south instead of moving north.”

“When that happens it’s like an upside down tree – it kind of blows out all the rest of the veins that are supposed to be feeding into it, and that’s actually what you see on the surface with spider veins, reticular veins, and varicose veins.” Dr. Syndor continued, “So, reflux in the legs is when the blood flows south instead of flowing north north the way supposed to be. When that happens, the blood becomes engorged when it sits down in your legs. You can get ankle swelling, you can get pigmentation changes, all because you have a bunch of deoxygenated blood that sitting down there and it’s not getting the chance to get back to your heart and lungs to pick up oxygen the way it should be.”

To treat more serious varicose vein problems, we offer several effective and minimally invasive solutions. After diagnosis, we will discuss your options so you can choose the treatment that best suits your needs. Although effective, no varicose vein treatment, whether surgical or minimally – invasive, can prevent new varicose veins from developing in the future. Most health insurance plans cover treatment of significant symptomatic varicose veins, but some consider treatment of spider veins as cosmetic surgery.

Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options. You may decide that beautiful legs and pain free legs are worth it.

Getting back to good health – Carrie’s story

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Carrie Brinson Schulze and her husband, Ryan Schulze

When you visit or are referred to VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute complaining of leg pain, we take a very close look at what’s behind it. Leg pain can be one of the first and most common symptoms of peripheral vascular disease, a variety of conditions and diseases that affect the arteries of the body, usually in the heart, brain and especially the legs, that can have life-threatening consequences. So leg pain is our signal to check out your overall vascular health.

Carrie Brinson Schulze experienced some unusual leg pain and swelling. Though she was only 33 at the time, and much too young, she thought, to experience such symptoms, she decided to come to us for an evaluation.

“I’m a chef and I stand all day long, sometimes 12 to 15 hours a day depending on what I’m doing,” she said. “About 4 years ago, I noticed that I would get a large amount of swelling in my left leg, and some bulging veins in my left calf, not the small spider-like veins, but big bumps on my leg.”

Her symptoms started appearing in 2012 after the birth of her child. It was then she noticed that after long periods of standing her left leg would swell to almost twice the size of her right leg. At the time, she didn’t have health insurance, but had been previously been tested for muscular issues and blood clots, and the results were negative.

“Living downtown, I was familiar with Baird Vascular Institute because I had seen their billboards,” said Carrie. “When I finally got health insurance, the very first appointment I made was to Baird Vascular.”

She had her first appointment with us in 2015. Since that time, she has had three separate procedures with our team.

“My experience with Baird Vascular Institute has been amazing,” said Carrie. “The first time I called there, the receptionist happened to be on vacation and I actually talked to Cindy, the one who does the ultrasounds. She fielded my call and made me feel very comfortable, and told me over the phone what to expect with my first appointment. She assured me that I was calling the right place.”

“When I came in for my first appointment with Dr. Komorowski,” she continued, “The ladies at the reception desk, Deena and Tiffany, were super fast, efficient, friendly, courteous – they were so great!”

“At the time of this appointment, I was 33 years old and my anxiety level was through the roof,” she admits. “I thought I was too young for anything like this to be happening. So I was really scared at my first appointment.”

Our experienced staff soon eased Carrie’s fears. “I first met nurse Richard – who is amazing,” said Carrie. “He has the best bedside manner of anyone I’ve ever met – nurse or doctor. He just makes you feel so relaxed with his great sense of humor and good stories. He assured me I would be OK.”

Carrie underwent a vascular ultrasound exam with Dr. Komorowski and discovered that her greater saphenous vein was four times its normal size. “That’s when I learned that I would need an ablation and at least 2 procedures to correct the problem,” said Carrie.

Carrie underwent the first procedure soon after her exam, and the only issue she had was some sickness from the anesthesia. “I had to stay in the recovery room for several hours because of the nausea,” Carrie recalled. “The staff took such excellent care of me and even called me that night to check on me. They followed me very closely throughout my recovery.”

When she came in for her follow up appointments, she had recovered well and got the approval to proceed with her second procedure. “This time,” she said, Nurse Richard had done some thinking on my behalf after the first procedure, knowing that I gotten very ill from the anesthesia. This time, they sent me a little patch to put behind my ear to prevent nausea.” She continued, “Richard really went above and beyond to comfort me in that manner – he really takes excellent care of his patients.” She underwent a second procedure to close the lower saphenous and some branch veins.

“I had to go in there a lot because I had 3 procedures, with many pre- and post-op appointments, and 2 week and 6 week follow ups,” she said. “I never felt like ‘just a patient,’ because they really take their time to answer all your questions thoroughly.”

“In May of this year, I had my final yearly examination,” said Carrie. “Right now, everything has been good.”

“I used to stand and within a minute, I would get a bulge in the back of my calf and my ankles and I would have fatigue and pain, and now I don’t have that any more,” Carrie said. “My leg doesn’t swell anymore.”

Carrie notes that she was particularly impressed with the technology at Baird Vascular Institute. “It’s not a scary thing to go into the clinic like it is to check into the hospital,” she said. “You’re kind of awake while they’re doing the procedure, they let you pick out the music you listen to, it was all very relaxed.”

“If I do need to go back in the future, I have no worries,” Carrie continued. “I’ve just been really impressed with that whole clinic.”

Carrie concluded, “I feel like I’m finally on the path to wellness. I’ve been able to exercise again, and standing at my job is no problem. It was a successful treatment for me, definitely.”

If you’re facing leg pain like Carrie, we have the latest in technology, techniques and medications to treat vascular disease, ease your pain and help you get back into good health. Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

5 Symptoms of Vascular Disease

Baird vascular leg pain

Vascular medicine and surgery primarily focuses on diseases and disorders of the peripheral vascular system: feet, hands, legs and arms. The health of the peripheral vascular system has a major impact on the health of your overall circulatory system and your overall health, and a vascular screening can reveal the first signs of more serious problems, which is why we offer comprehensive screenings to all our patients.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood back and forth through a complex system of vessels, called the circulatory, or vascular system. These arteries and veins, ranging from very large to microscopic, are elastic tubes that carry the blood to and from every part of the body. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs through arteries, and veins carry the blood back to the heart into the lungs, which remove CO2 and other waste from the blood and replenish it with fresh oxygen. This cycle supplies all the muscles, organs and tissues of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they need to work.

Vascular disease can cause these vessels to narrow, harden, swell, form blood clots or get partially or entirely blocked. When this happens, the tissues fed by these vessels are robbed of the oxygen and nutrients. Sometimes pain in the affected area will signal a problem. At other times, vascular disease shows few symptoms as it worsens over time, sometimes with serious consequences.

Although usually associated with older people, vascular disease can affect almost anyone and may present itself in all areas of the body.

Vascular diseases range from diseases of the arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. Among the most common types of vascular disease are peripheral vascular disease (PVD), peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease. The terms peripheral vascular disease and peripheral artery disease are often used interchangeably. Many of the problems we diagnose and treat involve peripheral vascular disease in one degree or another.

Some symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  1. Cramping and pain in the legs and buttocks, indicating poor circulation in the legs.
  2. Fatigue, heaviness and discomfort during exercise or activity that generally goes away when the activity stops or you are resting. This is called “intermittent claudication.”
  3. Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising
  4. Foot or toe wounds that don’t heal or heal very slowly
  5. A decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot, particularly compared to the other leg or the rest of your body.

If you want to learn more about peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and treatment options, wish to discuss symptoms or problems you may be experiencing or if your doctor has recommended that you see us for a vascular test, please contact us at (804) 828-2600 or email us.

Why you shouldn’t ignore vascular issues

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People often ignore or brush off certain symptoms as “minor” when it comes to their health. Many times, vascular issues are indicative of a larger problem, or more serious illness. Here are some issues that you should definitely speak to your physician about.

Leg pain: Pains that start in your legs with walking or other exertion could be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD), which often goes hand-in-hand with coronary artery disease.

Varicose veins: Varicose veins are not just an unsightly cosmetic annoyance, but also an indication that the veins in your legs are not working the way they should. Untreated varicose veins can lead to more serious issues including blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

There are more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, providing the network for the flow of oxygen and nutrients required by the body for good health. VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute has the latest in technology and techniques to diagnose and treat vascular disease. If we uncover signs of vascular disease, our experts can develop a custom treatment plan for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Cleveland Clinic, VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute