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Understanding Varicose Veins

There are three main categories of veins in your legs. Deep veins, found at the bone and muscle level, carry most of the blood back to the heart. Superficial veins, closer to the skin surface, carry the blood to the deep veins. Perforator veins join the deep and superficial systems. Along the blood’s pathway are many one-way, cup-like valves that open as blood travels upward, then snapping shut to keep the blood from flowing backward. When the valves do not close properly, blood escapes and collects in the vein. The excess blood weakens the vein walls and causes the vein to bulge and twist, often seen through the skin’s surface. This condition, known as venous insufficiency, can lead to complications such as varicose veins.

Common causes of varicose veins include genetics, aging, pregnancy, standing or sitting for long periods, obesity, chronic constipation and a sedentary lifestyle. Legs that swell, throb, burn, cramp, itch, feel tired or heavy can also be warning signs of varicose veins. Left untreated, they can progress to more severe complications such as phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), skin ulcers, and blood clots.

A qualified physician can accurately diagnose venous insufficiency by utilizing an ultrasound exam that charts the blood flow in the veins, and rules out other leg disorders. Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) or Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), nonsurgical treatments for varicose veins, are extremely successful, in-office, minimally invasive procedures that are completed in less than an hour and are covered by most insurance carriers. Following an EVLT or RFA procedure, most patients walk out of the office and return to their daily routines. Options, such as ambulatory phlebec to-my and/or ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, are available to patients with residual varicose veins from a prior procedure. There are treatments for unsightly spider veins as well.

Focus on the warning signs (i.e.: legs that swell, throb, burn, cramp, itch, feel tired or heavy). The lack of visual symptoms may not be indicative of what is happening beneath the surface. Varicose veins are a burden on your circulatory system. They are not just a cosmetic problem.

For more information or to to schedule an evaluation, call Dr. Gennady Geskin, Greater Pittsburgh Vascular Associates (A Division of Jefferson Cardiology Association), at (412) 469-1500 or visit www.greaterpittsburghvascular.com.

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