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Care and Treatment of Varicose Veins Changes, Benefits Patients

January 22, 2013

If you are over 50, there's a good chance you have varicose veins. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that half of Americans age 50 and older are affected by this condition. It occurs when there is damage to tiny valves inside the veins. This leads to increased venous blood pressure in the legs, causing vessels to become dilated, thickened, elongated and twisted.

People with varicose veins can have trouble with pain, swelling, itching and unsightly areas of skin tissue. In more severe cases of venous insufficiency, skin thickening and ulceration may occur, which can continue for long periods of time, causing additional discomfort and restricting movement of the legs. Some patients develop what is called venous claudication, which is pain, pressure and a feeling that blood vessels may burst while walking. Others have such severe disease that they have trouble completing their activities of daily living.

For a long time, varicose veins have been treated with a surgical procedure called vein stripping and ligation, which requires a hospital stay and open surgery using general anesthesia. This can be inconvenient and debilitating for patients, with an extended recovery time and significant bruising.

"Today, we view and often treat varicose veins - also called varicosities - differently," said Gabriel Herscu, M.D., a vascular surgeon with Washington Township Medical Foundation, who is also on the medical staff at Washington Hospital in Fremont. "We see it as a chronic disease. When people understand that venous insufficiency is a chronic disease, they can learn what they need to do to help slow its progression or even prevent it."

"Patient education is key," emphasized Dr. Herscu. "We also have new treatments that are much more comfortable for the patient."

Find out more

You can find out more about the causes, symptoms and latest treatment of varicose veins, at a free Health and Wellness seminar featuring Dr. Herscu on Tuesday, January 29 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Called "Not a Superficial Problem: Varicose Veins and Chronic Venous Disease," the program will be held in rooms A and B of the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West building at 2500 Mowry Avenue, next to Washington Hospital in Fremont. To reserve your spot, go online to www.whhs.com and look under Upcoming Seminars, or call (800) 963-7070.

Two systems for circulation

Our legs have two systems of veins for circulating blood. One system is deeper and the other is more superficial, or closer to the surface.

"Patients with superficial disease have more treatment options, many which can be done without hospitalization," added Dr. Herscu.

"There are a number of minimally invasive surgical techniques that have been developed, so common treatment has gone from a major operation to an outpatient, office-based procedure at the patient's convenience, with the same effective results," continued Dr. Herscu. "With this type of treatment, people can leave the office after a relatively short visit and go back to work without any interruption in their daily schedule."

Other treatment options include medication and use of compression stockings.

Dr. Herscu emphasized that all levels of venous disease - from spider veins to varicosities to venous edema or swelling, discoloration and ulcerations - can be treated in some way. Treatment ranges from the latest office-based therapy to advanced venous reconstruction in the hospital operating room. Therapies can be used alone or combined with others for the most effective result.

Latest therapies

One of the latest office-based therapies for the superficial venous system is called endovenous thermal ablation, which has become the standard of care for treatment of primary varicose veins. The surgeon inserts a thin catheter into the vein through a needle puncture, applying energy to the vein wall. This causes the vein to collapse and a scar forms to block the vein and force blood to flow through other nearby healthy veins.

In another office-based procedure called sclerotherapy, the surgeon injects a solution into the vein, causing it to close and the blood to be redirected to other healthier veins. Unsightly veins can also be removed through tiny punctures in a procedure called "ambulatory phlebectomy."

"Patient education is very important, and I also work with other physicians to further their understanding of chronic venous disease and available preventive measures," stated Dr. Herscu.

At Washington Township Medical Foundation's comprehensive vascular center, specialists like Dr. Herscu provide all aspects of vascular care, from medical treatment to major operative venous and arterial reconstructions to skin treatments for spider veins. The vein treatment program offers the latest, cutting-edge therapy and education in a comfortable office environment.

Learn more

For more information about varicose veins, visit the Web site of the American Venous Forum at www.veinforum.org. For more information about Washington Township Medical Foundation, go to www.mywtmf.com. For more information about Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com.