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Varicose Veins: What You Need to Know

Varicose Vein evaluation by doctor

Have you heard of varicose veins, but you are not sure what they are? Or do you think you may have varicose veins, but you are not sure what to do about them? You are not alone! According to the Chicago Vein Institute, “more than 40 million people in the United States suffer from varicose veins.” Below, we will discuss what you need to know about them!

What Are Varicose Veins? 

A picture of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are an abnormal dilatation of the veins in your lower legs. Typically, you will notice large, rope-like veins with discoloration in their lower extremities. Most cases of varicose veins occur in the lower extremities and they are often seen in the large veins of your legs, the greater and lesser saphenous. These large veins are generally located on the inside portion of your legs, running from your groin to your ankle area. Varicose veins can occur in other portions of your body as well. We commonly see varicose veins in the pelvic area, often in women years after childbirth. Pelvic varicose veins are treated in an entirely different way than leg varicose veins and can be very difficult to successfully relieve symptoms.

How Do You Get Varicose Veins? 

Varicose veins can originate from numerous conditions, but the underlying problem is that the small valves within your veins do not completely close. These veins allow the blood in your lower extremities to drain abnormally. When they drain this way, blood pools in your feet and legs and often causes pain. 

Varicose Veins Explanation image

Genetics also play a factor into whether you will develop varicose veins. We commonly see varicose veins in patients who have family members with similar conditions, however there is no specific genetic data that we can identify for why that is at this time. According to the Chicago Vein Institute, about 50% of people with varicose veins have a family history of varicose veins. In addition, if both of a patient’s parents have varicose veins, his or her chances of developing varicose veins increase to almost 90%. 

Age is also a significant risk factor when it comes to varicose veins because varicose veins/reflux are chronic conditions. In general, the older you are, the more likely you are to suffer from this condition. It is estimated that 50% of the US population over 50 years old have varicose veins (Chicago Vein Institute). However, this is not an absolute. In some cases, we see significant venous disease in younger people who seek treatment.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

A woman with leg pain because of varicose veins

Not every patient who has varicose veins will experience painful symptoms. Patients who do experience symptoms of varicose veins often say their legs hurt, feel heavy or become painful when standing for prolonged periods of time. The enlarged veins in the lower extremities sometimes break open and bleed which can become painful over time. Others feel leg pain at night that is described as an ache or general weakness. In many cases, patients will complain of leg swelling throughout the day that becomes progressively worse over a period of months. Abnormalities in one’s venous system can, in some cases, result in blood clots forming in the lower extremities.

How Your Veins Relate to Your Entire Body

An Image of a body with veins showing

Your venous system is the path by which your blood returns back to your heart. Once your heart pumps blood through your entire body, your blood needs a way to return back to your heart to be recirculated. Your veins are the highway for your blood to be recirculated and to return to your heart to start the process again. Taking care of your venous system can prevent painful symptoms and blood clots from forming in your lower extremities as stated above. 

Varicose Vein Prevention

The best way to help prevent varicose veins is a healthy lifestyle. Watching your weight and regular exercise like anything else, keeps the cardiovascular system in tip-top shape. Some individuals, regardless of a healthy lifestyle, will still suffer from poor venous circulation. The exact mechanism for why this occurs is poorly understood but it certainly ties to genetic factors that we don’t completely understand as talked about above. 

When Should I See a Doctor For Varicose Veins?

Seeking treatment for varicose veins depends on the individual. In general, if you notice large veins in your legs, you have pain or swelling or if you have non-healing ulcers on your legs, you should generally be evaluated by your physician.

Varicose Vein Treatment Options

In general, varicose veins/reflux are a progressive problem. Typically, untreated venous disease will not spontaneously resolve. If you have your veins treated, you can have either a recurrence or progression of your varicose veins which may require multiple treatments over a period of time. There are non-invasive things you can do to relieve symptoms (talked about below), but this will not alter the underlying disease process. Varicose veins are a chronic condition that requires surveillance for years after treatment but if treated early in the process, the likelihood of an untreatable or chronic condition is much less. 

At-Home Treatments for Varicose Veins

A woman using compression socks for varicose veins.

If you suffer from any of the symptoms above, wearing compression hose can help relieve the pain and swelling most people notice. Check out this article for more information on how to wear compression hose. Elevating your legs at night will also help alleviate symptoms. It is recommended to elevate your legs 3-4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time. It is important to remember that neither of these recommendations will treat the underlying disease, they will only help with symptoms.

In-Office, Invasive Treatment Options for Varicose Veins 

Treatment of symptomatic venous disease involves an office based procedure that has little to no recovery time. Once diagnosed, patients can undergo an ablation. Again, this procedure is done right in your physician’s office and involves inserting a small catheter into the vein and essentially zipping the diseased vein closed from the inside. The procedure takes about 20 minutes and more than 80% of patients will note significant resolution in symptoms after this procedure. In some cases, a foam is injected into the vein as a substitute for the catheter based ablation. This too is an office based procedure and takes no more than 20 minutes. We offer both of these procedures in our Johnson City office!

Karing Hearts Cardiology Treatments for Varicose Veins

Varicose Vein Evaluation
Venous Disease Evaluation at Karing Hearts Cardiology

Karing Hearts Cardiology offers a complete vascular evaluation and performs both procedures right in our office. All of our providers have been performing this service for years and have treated close to 1,000 patients. If you are concerned about your potential for venous disease, any of our providers would be happy to see you in our office and begin the evaluation. Once diagnosed and properly treated, patients have reported an increase in their activity level as well as remaining free from long-term leg pain and discomfort. If you would like to learn more about our vein disease treatments, click here to read detailed descriptions of the services we offer. (Once you have gone to the link, click a service listed in red to read the detailed descriptions of that service.)

If you think you may have varicose veins and want to be evaluated, you can make an appointment with one of our providers by calling (423) 926-4468 and one of our team members will schedule an appointment for you. We have offices in Johnson City, Elizabethton and Erwin, Tennessee and all of our providers are accepting new patients. 

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Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is an invasive heart procedure where an ultrasound probe is inserted into your esophagus (food pipe). A transesophageal echocardiogram allows your cardiologist to acquire detailed pictures pertaining to the structure, function and any valvular heart disease that many be present. This procedure demonstrates your cardiac function in much greater detail than a standard transthoracic echocardiogram.

Prior to your procedure, you should not have any food or drink for 8-12 hours. In most cases, you will be able to take your home medications as scheduled. Your cardiologist / healthcare provider will advise you if there are any requirements to alter your medication schedule. Prior to your transesophageal echocardiogram, the technologist will insert an IV in your arm as a safety precaution to begin the test. This will allow sedation to be given to make you more comfortable during your procedure. During your procedure, you will be required to lie flat for approximately 30 minutes while the test is being completed. After your transesophageal echocardiogram, you will need to refrain from driving for approximately 12 hours and will need someone to accompany you home after the procedure. You can return to your normal activities the morning after your procedure.