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Recognizing & Treating Varicose Veins

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Dr. Anthony Nelson


Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, part of Ascension

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You know varicose veins when you see them – blue, gnarled cords twisting through the legs. However, it’s possible you may have varicose veins and not even realize it. The symptoms of the condition often come on over years or decades. It’s such a slow process that most people don’t give it a second thought and chalk up their aching legs to age or activity.

But varicose veins affect up to 23 percent of all Americans, making it one of the more common vascular conditions. Women are twice as likely as men to develop varicose veins but almost everyone has some level of risk for developing the condition. Common risk factors include older age, family history, obesity, standing for long periods of time, and pregnancy.

Watch for these symptoms
For some people, varicose veins are mainly a cosmetic concern. For the majority, they notice their legs ache and feel heavy. Although no two people experience the same thing, here are a few of the most common symptoms:

  • Dark blue or purple veins
  • Veins that appear twisted or bulging
  • An achy, heavy feeling in your legs
  • Muscle throbbing or cramping in your legs
  • Pain after sitting or standing for a long period of time
  • Itching around your veins

If you experience varicose veins symptoms, it’s important to get evaluated by a primary care physician or a vascular specialist. If ignored, symptoms will get worse and it will become more difficult to treat the condition.

Minimally invasive treatments speed recovery
Today’s varicose veins treatments are less invasive and are performed on an outpatient basis. Even better, insurance covers treatments. The most common procedure I do is radiofrequency ablation, which uses catheters to shut down the faulty veins and alleviate symptoms. The recovery period is minimal – most people return to work the same day and I’ve even had patients who have gone running immediately after the procedure.

Of course, you can help avoid having any type of procedure by taking steps to prevent the condition. Being active and having an overall healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to help prevent varicose veins. Moving your leg muscles keeps your blood flowing and prevents it from pooling and stretching out your veins. Other tips include avoid standing for long periods of time, elevate your legs while resting and maintain a healthy weight.

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