Ropey, bulging or spidery-looking varicose veins in the leg aren’t just a cosmetic problem. They can be a significant medical problem, and treating them earlier can make a big difference when it comes to preventing painful and serious complications later.
[tw-divider]A vein problem, not a vain problem[/tw-divider]
Varicose veins in the legs, which are large, raised and swollen blood vessels under the skin, are a progressive problem. In the veins of your legs are valves that prevent blood from flowing back down your legs because of gravity. As we age, and depending on how much we’re on our feet, those valves can start to fail and allow blood to flow back downward. This causes higher blood pressure in those veins and can lead to bulging varicose veins.
A similar and associated problem is known as “spider veins,” which are small dilated blood vessels near the skin’s surface. They’re similar to varicose veins but smaller, and they are often due to venous hypertension or other vascular problems.
At the very least, varicose and spider veins are unsightly, which leads a lot of people to get them treated straightaway. However, some people put off having them treated, and as the problem progresses, other symptoms can develop. Varicose veins can lead to swelling of the legs and be painful. In rare cases, there can be more serious circulatory problems like ulcers (sores). As with most medical conditions, treating these veins earlier rather than later is a good idea.
[tw-divider]Modern medicine for the modern age[/tw-divider]
Years ago, treating these veins took surgeries that were painful and left scars, neither of which are very appealing to most people. But about eight or nine years ago, my colleague Dr. Robert Schell came back from a conference and he was raving about the amazing new progress being made in treating vein problems of the legs. That led to me becoming the fourth board-certified phlebologist in the state of Kentucky. Today, there are only seven of us statewide.
Treatment of varicose and spider veins focuses on three primary methods:
- Laser ablation: Using ultrasound to guide us, we can insert a catheter into the vein and treat it from the inside using laser energy to obliterate the problem veins.
- Sclerotherapy: This technique uses doses of medication injected into the problem veins, destroying them.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy: Using a series of tiny micro-incisions, we can surgically remove large veins in question and do so in a way that is virtually scarless.
[tw-divider]Sight beyond skin[/tw-divider]
One of the most important components to using these treatments is being able to assess them effectively. Owensboro Health Surgical Specialists has an ultrasound laboratory that is accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission for Vascular Testing (formerly the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories). Not only do they require rigorous preparation and testing to earn that certification, but they monitor and follow-up to ensure any lab is in compliance with their standards. Owensboro Health Surgical Specialists was the first lab certified by the ICAVL in the region. To further help with diagnosis and support the lab, I am also certified as a registered physician vascular interpreter (RPVI).
[tw-divider]Sooner rather than later[/tw-divider]
I feel strongly about treating vein problems because I see so often that this is a neglected disease, and if left untreated it can lead to a lot of pain and difficulty. The earlier it is addressed, the better the outcome and the easier it is to manage, and that’s why I encourage people to talk about it and get it treated.
As a physician, I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing my patients get well and get back to enjoying their lives. Through much study, reading, conferences and instruction, I have come to use these new techniques and technologies, and I have never been better able to make that a reality for people from throughout this region.
Dr. Roger Humphrey is a board certified general surgeon and phlebologist with Owensboro Health Surgical Specialists, located at 2801 New Hartford Road. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 270-926-1336.