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.

What’s the difference between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

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Unsightly leg 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.

And, most important, varicose veins are treatable–with new, non-invasive procedures that are quick, virtually painless, and require little or no recovery time. Our vascular specialists are experts in evaluating and treating varicose veins, from unsightly spider veins using new, gentle and highly effective treatments to the relief of more serious, painful and even dangerous major varicose veins.

For a quick guide to the difference, watch Dr. Strife’s video.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged veins in the legs near the surface of the skin, ranging from tiny to large. Spider veins are small, surface veins, which, while embarrassing, are relatively minor. Learn more about our advanced treatments for spider veins.

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.

What are spider veins?

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but are milder, involving the smaller veins just below the skin surface. Spider veins are more common among women of any age, and frequently appear during/after pregnancy or when gaining weight. The extra burden weakens the valves in the veins carrying blood back to the heart, so the blood pools and the veins swell. When only small, surface veins are affected, the result is spider veins, which can range from little patches to very large areas. They generally do not bulge or cause pain.

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.

 

 

Why now is the perfect time to get rid of your spider & varicose veins

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Most people start to think about their spider or varicose veins right about the late springtime when the weather gets warm and they go to put on shorts for the first time of the year. That’s a natural reaction, but truthfully – right now – in the fall, is the very best time to have a procedure done on your leg veins.

We talked to Dr. Malcolm Sydnor about why you should consider having your leg veins treated now, instead of in the spring. “if you have spider or reticular veins on your legs, we will use a tiny needle in a process called sclerotherapy to inject those things to get rid of them.” Sclerotherapy involves using a tiny needle to inject individual spider veins with a solution that makes them shrink. As they shrink, blood is channeled to deeper veins, making the spider veins on the surface almost invisible. “Afterward,” he continued, “we are going to need you to stay out of the sun until those veins have totally resolved – otherwise you’re going to see pigmentation changes on the skin where those veins were.”

Dr. Sydnor continued, “If the sun hits those locations before they fully resolve, the blood cells that remain will release a pigment that you can see on your skin. It’s because of that reason that we like to perform the vast majority of cosmetic treatments retail for spider veins in the fall.”

“Other treatments such as endovenous thermal ablation, are not as affected by sun exposure because the vein is much farther under the skin,” he continued. Endovenous thermal ablation (EVTA) is an alternative to surgically removing varicose veins. The team uses ultrasound to guide a small catheter tipped with a laser or radio frequency emitter into the vein. The catheter delivers just enough laser or radio wave heat to cause the vein to close, collapse and seal shut, without affecting nearby tissue. The treated vein is absorbed by the body and disappears within a few months. EVTA not only treats your large varicose veins, but also eliminates many smaller unsightly ones.

Although we welcome patients any time of the year, ideally our physicians recommend a fall time frame so that the legs have plenty of time to heal before exposure to the warm summer sun.

Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options. You may decide that beautiful 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.