Steve Elias, MD, is the director of the Center for Vein Disease at Englewood Health. Board certified in general surgery and venous and lymphatic medicine with expertise in blood clots/DVT, leg ulcers and varicose and spider veins, Dr. Elias sat down with us to answer some questions about our veins. Steve Elias, MD, is the director of the Center for Vein Disease at Englewood Health. (Photo: Center for Vein Disease at Englewood Health)
What causes varicose veins?
Veins, which bring oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart, have one-way valves (check valves) that keep blood flowing back up the legs toward the heart. When the valves fail, the blood leaks back down the legs and pools. This puts pressure on your veins, and over time they can weaken and bulge. In the legs, for example, this can result in visible varicose veins and significant symptoms or complications such as blood clots or ulcers.
Aren’t varicose veins simply a cosmetic issue?
Most varicose veins are not cosmetic. Although vein disease is rarely a life- or leg-threatening problem, symptoms — heaviness, aching, swelling, throbbing and itching — can impact your quality of life and affect your ability to function normally. Varicose veins can cause complications including blood clots, phlebitis (an inflammation of the veins) or ulcers (sores) that are not healing because of the vein disease. Most varicose veins are treated for symptoms or complications, which are usually covered by insurance. Some people don’t have symptoms; for them treatment would be cosmetic.
Can you be affected by varicose veins and not even know it?
Your legs might feel tired, aching or heavy as the day progresses and you might just attribute it to getting older. Often you don’t make the connection between the symptoms and vein disease. Also, you may have ulcers or wounds near your ankles, which can be caused by abnormally functioning veins. Finally, swelling of one leg with or without a history of blood clots can be due to narrowed or blocked veins.
Why do my legs feel good in the morning and bad in the evening?
At night while you are sleeping your legs are elevated and gravity is helping to drain the veins of extra blood that accumulated during the day. If you have poorly functioning veins, the more you are on your feet or sit at work the more you will feel the symptoms. Symptoms tend to get worse as the day progresses. At the end of the day you are carrying around more blood in your leg veins than when you woke up. It’s rarely a pain. It’s more of a tired, heavy, achy feeling. If symptoms are affecting your quality of life on a daily basis they should be treated.
Can vein disease be prevented?
Living a healthy lifestyle always helps overall health. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to reduce the risk of developing varicose veins because the causes are primarily genetic.
How do I know if I have a blood clot?
Many times, you won’t realize you have a clot. If you have any concerns or risk factors (like family history), be aware if one leg seems heavy, tired or swollen after sitting in a car or plane for a long time. Your calf may become tender. Being in a hospital bed for a long period of time or being in a leg cast can also increase your chances of developing a clot.
What are the main risk factors for varicose veins?
Minimally invasive technologies for treating vein disease really came into play in the early 2000s and the technologies get better each year. For almost any vein procedure you have at Englewood Health, there will be no cuts, no stitches, just a few needle sticks and local anesthesia, and the whole procedure will take about 30 minutes. Most patients walk in and walk out and are back to just about anything they want to do the next day or two. There are a few vein procedures that may require two or three very small (3mm) incisions.
Why choose the Center for Vein Disease at Englewood Health?
Englewood Health has a dedicated vein center, located at Englewood Hospital, led by a board-certified vein specialist. We are a high-volume center with highly experienced physicians, offering the full range of the newest treatment options before most other providers can offer them.
Our patients have access to our clinical trials, including participation in industry trials. This means our patients can get the newest technologies sooner, with a surgeon who is highly experienced in using a range of treatments.
We provide tailored care for the individual patient’s need with the best technology for them because all current minimally invasive technologies are offered.
In addition, we train physicians — from around the country and the world — who come to learn the newest techniques at Englewood Hospital.
What’s the most important thing you want people to know?
All veins can be treated. Some technologies are better for curvy, straight, small or big veins. At Englewood Hospital, with these technologies we can treat nearly every single vein in the body. Even if a person has had blood clots (and scarring from those clots) or ulcers that keep coming back, we can treat these affected veins with minimally invasive tools to alleviate symptoms and prevent recurrence. People tend to accommodate and live with symptoms. However, once they are treated, most patients find they feel that the leg is lighter with more energy.
If you have your veins treated for the right reasons, by the right doctor using the right technologies at a facility such as the Center for Vein Disease at Englewood Health, you are likely to have a significant improvement in symptoms and appearance and prevent further complications from vein disease.
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