Maybe their mom told them the unsightly veins were just part of aging. Or maybe they knew someone who tried to battle the bulging, wormlike veins with surgery, regretting it to this day. Whatever their reason, many people are quietly and wrongly suffering with varicose veins, doctors say.
Unlike their thin, spider-vein cousins, varicose veins can cause life-altering pain. And whereas spider veins are a cosmetic issue, varicose veins are a physical malfunction: One-way valves responsible for sending blood back up to the heart stop working, allowing blood to pool in the legs.
“Even a couple of varicose veins indicates someone has venous disease and should be evaluated,” says Dr. Lucy Esberg, a vascular medicine cardiologist with The Medical Center of Aurora. Treatments today are minor compared with the “vein-stripping” surgery of the past, which was painful and required long recovery times, so there’s no reason to suffer with the embarrassment and the pain, Esberg says.
Often, patients are plagued by burning, itching and a feeling of heaviness in the legs, says Dr. Jillian Ciocchetti of North Suburban Medical Center. Ablating the troubled veins, either through laser or another heat source, has become standard, with treatments generally under two hours and recovery less than a day, Ciocchetti says.
Both doctors note that Medicare requires an attempt with compression-stocking treatment for three months before allowing surgical coverage. “So go to your doctor,” Esberg says. “Don’t wait.”
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