Health Column: Yes, there’s help for those varicose veins

04/27/2014 5:00 AM |

veincenter

Shorts and flip-flops are almost mandatory components of the summer wardrobe. But those dealing with hard-to-conceal varicose veins are often left sweating in long pants. Doctors say understanding the cause of varicose veins and responding with the appropriate treatments can help prevent this seasonal dilemma. 

“Often, people don’t know that it is a medical issue and that they can be covered by insurance for treatment,” said Dr. Antonios Gasparis, director of the Stony Brook Vein Center.

The center is offering free varicose vein screenings this Saturday, April 26, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving participants a brief examination of the lower legs with ultrasound to check for causes of the condition.

Those who have visible varicose veins and are feeling symptoms like heavy, tired or cramping legs, Dr. Gasparis said, should consider a consultation — especially if symptoms occur while sitting or standing for long periods of time.

“The myth is that when people stand, all the blood pools down, getting caught in the vein,” Dr. Gasparis said, explaining that it’s not quite that simple.

The condition is caused when the vein wall loses its elasticity, stretching over time, he said.

In order to return blood to the heart, the vein must work against gravity. Muscle contractions in the lower legs act as pumps, and the elasticity of the vein walls helps blood travel back to the heart, according to the National Institutes of Health. When that elasticity diminishes, and veins begin to stretch, the blood can pool.

The blue or purple in color of varicose veins is the result of retained deoxygenated blood, which has not yet reached the lungs to receive oxygen, according to NIH.

The condition has different stages, from simple spider veins, which are mostly superficial, to ulcers or rashes that can develop because of trapped blood, Dr. Gasparis said.

But for most stages, both self-care options and professional treatments available.

“A lot of the patients think their legs are supposed to feel symptoms because they are just getting older,” Dr. Gasparis said. “But after treatment, a lot of them can’t believe they waited so long to get [symptoms] taken care of.”

The doctor said self-care measures include elevating the legs and wearing support stockings to keep blood from pooling.

The consultation, which takes about 15 minutes, will also check patients for deep vein thrombosis, or blood clotting, a more serious condition.

To reserve your spot for a screening Saturday at 24 Research Way, Suite 100, East Setauket, call 444-VEIN.

Carrie Miller

Got a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at cmiller@timesreview.com