Dr. Attila Csordas is the chief of vascular and interventional radiology at Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and twisted. The term commonly refers to the veins in the leg, although varicose veins can occur elsewhere. Veins have leaflet valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards. Leg muscles pump the veins to return blood to the heart, against the effects of gravity. When veins become varicose, the leaflets of the valves no longer meet properly, and the valves do not work. This allows blood to flow backwards and the veins enlarge.
What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins are more common in women than in men and are linked with heredity. Other related factors include pregnancy, obesity, menopause, aging, prolonged standing, leg injury and abdominal straining. Varicose veins are not caused by crossing the legs or ankles. People in careers like hairdressing, nursing or factory work (which require a lot of standing) often have higher occurrences of varicose veins than people who work at desk jobs. To avoid varicose veins try walking, wearing support stockings and staying at a healthy weight.
Can men get varicose veins?
Yes, varicose veins don’t discriminate based on gender. Approximately 20% of women and 10% of men suffer from varicose veins and the veins can occur anywhere on the leg from the groin down to the ankle.
Do varicose veins hurt?
Yes, varicose veins can hurt, but many times people get used to the discomfort. Many patients suffering from varicose veins may experience aching, heavy legs (often worse at night, after exercise and during hot, summer months); swollen ankles, especially in the evenings; cramping especially when making a sudden move while standing up.*
When do varicose veins need to be treated?
Varicose veins are medical problems - not just cosmetic. People with varicose veins and leg pain discomfort should consult their doctor to determine the cause. The initial evaluation usually includes an ultrasound to determine which vein is responsible for the patient’s varicose veins and its associated symptoms. This ultrasound also provides very important guidance for the treatment.
What does treatment entail?
Traditionally, surgery called "stripping and phlebectomy" was required to remove the offending vein and the varicose veins. Now, minimally-invasive procedures are available, such as Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT). This procedure is not only more comfortable than the previously-mentioned surgery, but also provides better results.