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What are the risks of having varicose veins? – Get the facts on Medical Rounds

February 24, 2016
Medical Rounds

Dr. Marvin Morris of Baystate Vascular Services appeared on last night’s Medical Rounds – a collaboration between Baystate Health and Western Mass News. The weekly Medical Rounds is broadcast in the 5:30 p.m. portion of the Tuesday night news and will focus on family health and wellness and breakthrough technologies. Each session will be followed by an interactive live chat. Last night’s discussion focused on varicose veins. A transcription of last night's edition follows.

Q. What are varicose veins and what are the risk factors associated with having them?

A: Varicose veins are caused by a variety of factors. First, there is a family history. If both of your parents have varicose veins, there is a roughly 70% chance of you developing  varicose veins, too. Varicose veins are the result of faulty valves within the superficial veins of the legs, leading to a condition called reflux. When reflux occurs in the superficial vein system, it leads to stagnation of blood returning to the heart from the superficial veins. This is not a blood clot, and typically is not life threatening, but has a variety of symptoms that patients experience.

Q: Outside of the aesthetic benefit for patients, are there medical reasons to have varicose veins removed?

A: There is a spectrum of symptoms depending on the severity of reflux in the lower extremities. Patients may have aching in the legs, swelling, and cramps, in addition to the unsightly varicose veins in the legs. Spider veins may also be present. In very extreme cases, ulceration may occur, but this typically happens after years of having untreated varicose veins.  Some people just don’t like the presence of the veins and want them removed for aesthetic purposes.

Q: How do the actual veins get removed?

A: We do a minimally invasive procedure using high energy radio frequency catheters to treat the varicose veins, rendering them non-functional. In essence, we only treat the superficial veins, but the deep vein system, which is responsible for the majority of blood returning to the heart, is left intact.

Q: What is the recovery process?

A: This is an outpatient procedure typically performed in our office at Baystate Vascular Services. The leg is wrapped and kept elevated after the procedure, but patients are encouraged to walk while recovering. Return to work is within a day or two.