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11:02 AM Tue, Dec. 11th

Varicose veins a symptom of serious health issues

Varicose veins are unsightly but can also be a sign that something is seriously wrong.

Varicose veins are unsightly but can also be a sign that something is seriously wrong.

Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that causes decreased blood flow from the leg veins to the heart. The decreased blood flow causes the blood to pool in the leg veins, which can lead to varicose veins.

Special valves in the blood vessels of the legs ensure blood flows up toward the heart for recirculation, and prevent the backflow of blood. When blood flows backward, it is called Venous Reflux Disease.

Symptoms such as aching, swelling, fatigue or heaviness in the leg or an ulcer on the leg are common for those with varicose veins. If unchecked and untreated, chronic venous insufficiency can lead to uncontrollable swelling, ulcerations that heal poorly, infections, and tissue loss.

Drs. Matthew Dicker and Ben Paxton of Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott are interventional radiologists who are specially trained in vein and artery health and function and believe it is important to keep your blood vessels healthy.

“Aside from the cosmetic aspect, the symptom of varicose veins that prompts treatment the majority of the time is pain, throbbing or aching, usually at the end of the day,” Dicker said. “It is rare, but at times a varicose vein may bleed.”

There are surgical and non-surgical options for vein treatment. One non-surgical option is vein ablation, in which a probe is inserted into the poorly functioning vein to heat and then collapse it. Blood flow then re-routes through healthier veins.

“There are many benefits of vein ablation over a surgical option. Ablation is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that avoids many of the increased risks of surgery, such as pain and infection. The recovery time is much quicker, and there are no scars or stitches. Ablation has a high success rate and lower recurrence rates compared to surgery,” Paxton said.

Phlebectomy, when a vein is removed through a small incision, and sclerotherapy, when the vein is injected with a material and it collapses, are two other treatment options.

Prescott’s Frank Colella made an appointment with Dicker to treat varicose veins that developed as a result of several biking accidents.

In June of 2010, he was in a near-fatal biking accident while riding on White Spar Road. Among other things, he reinjured his left leg and was placed into a cast, which led to poor circulation. The combination of wearing a cast many times, as well as working long hours as a nurse practitioner, led to the development of his varicose veins.

“I work four long days, almost 10 hours each day, and I see 20 or 25 patients every day. I’m on my feet and stationary all day long,” Colella said.

“Often, patients see me for cosmetic reasons and because their veins are unsightly. We can and do perform the procedure for this reason. We also want to make sure the veins are healthy and to rule out chronic venous insufficiency as the cause of the varicose veins, because it is this underlying condition that can pose a more serious health risk,” Dicker said.

Colella said he is satisfied with his results.

“I’m not sure if it is because of my Italian heritage or what, but biking is in my blood,” he said.

If you have questions about varicose vein treatment options, please call Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott at 928-771-8477.