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How to Wear and Care for Compression Stockings

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Compression stockings are garments that tightly squeeze the skin for medical purposes, and may be worn for a variety of reasons. For instance, they may be recommended by a doctor after certain kinds of surgery. They may also be recommended by physicians for people who are non-ambulatory for a time. For those who suffer from conditions like varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis, a doctor may also recommend the wearing of compression stockings or hosiery.

Compression stockings are generally graded by the amount of compression they provide.

  • 15-20 mmHg stockings are the lowest grade, typically available over the counter. These may come in knee-high, thigh-high, pantyhose or maternity pantyhose styles.
  • 20-30 mmHg stockings are the first medical grade compression stockings. It is the most widely used, providing ample compression without being too strong. These are generally recommended for the treatment of varicose veins, spider veins, leg swelling, and after surgery.
  • 30-40 mmHg stockings are stockings that are recommended for more serious symptoms. They are also commonly recommended for those with deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, and lymphedema.
  • 40-50 mmHg stockings offer the strongest grade of compression. This level of compression is usually reserved for those with severe venous stasis and lymphedema.

Once your doctor has recommended compression stockings, you’ll generally have a wide variety of styles to choose from to fit your lifestyle. Always wear your compression stockings as the doctor recommends if they are prescribed to you.

How To Use Compression Stockings

Many doctors will recommend that you put on your compression stockings when you first wake up, before swelling has had a chance to occur. It may also be recommended that you wear them prior to long flights or trips in a car where you will be sedentary for a long period.

Before putting on your compression stockings, you will want to lay them out so that they are smooth, and to prevent wrinkles. When pulling them on, make sure to avoid bunching. Do not roll them down, because this may put too much compression in one area. Your doctor will let you know how long you need to wear them, but doctors generally recommend removing them before sleeping. Of course, you’ll also want to remove them while bathing.

When you purchase your compression stockings, they will probably come with a guide about how to wash and care for them. It is best if you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the care of your stockings. Many compression stockings are fine tossed into the washing machine, but some need to be hand washed.

Hand washing is simple. You’ll want to place the stockings into a bucket or tub or sink filled with water at the recommended temperature that already has soap or detergent added. If your stockings need to be soaked, allow them to soak for a time. You will then want to rub the stockings together gently to clean them. Once you have cleaned them, rinse them thoroughly.

After cleaning, you may hang to allow them to air dry. Again, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying them using a dryer.

Used properly, compression stockings are an important part of controlling the symptoms of vein diseases like varicose veins. They squeeze the vessels so that blood can flow easier up your legs and prevent the pooling of blood that causes vein issues.

Vein Relief – Why Cholesterol and Atherosclerosis Are A Problem

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Cholesterol is vital for health. It’s a part of all of our cells. However, there are actually two kinds of cholesterol in our bodies. When the “bad” variety builds up, it can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries”.

 

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is needed to build cells. For the most part, our livers produce all the cholesterol we need. A second source of cholesterol comes in with the foods that we eat, especially with foods derived from animals.

There are two types of cholesterol: LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and HDL cholesterol (the good kind).

 

How Cholesterol Affects the Veins and Arteries

When your liver produces too much cholesterol and/or your diet contains too much, that extra cholesterol doesn’t get to your cells. Instead, it binds with other substances and deposits itself along the walls of your arteries. This cholesterol can then harden, and there the problems begin.

Once this hardened cholesterol (often called plaque) forms, two things happen. The passage through which your blood flows becomes narrower. This causes less blood flow and higher blood pressure. Secondly, your veins and arteries become less flexible, which also affects blood flow.

When this happens, it is known as a condition called atherosclerosis.

Paradoxically, it would seem that cholesterol would have an easier time settling in your veins, but this condition only happens in arteries. Your arteries are built to handle a lot of pressure going through them at once. This high pressure contributes to plaques. But your veins are a low-pressure system.

This is also demonstrated when a doctor reroutes a bad part of an artery through a vein. Though veins can work as arteries, they do become vulnerable to atherosclerosis once they are connected to the high-pressure parts of your circulatory system.

 

What this Decreased Blood Flow Can Cause

The decreased blood flow means that blood, which is necessary for our organs to receive vital nutrients and oxygen, is no longer flowing effectively. This can cause organs to begin to not work as efficiently, and in some cases, cause a disruption.

In fact, depending on where this plaque buildup occurs, various areas of the body can be affected. We already know that it can cause heart attacks and strokes, but it can also affect the kidneys.

When the arteries leading to and from the heart become clogged and restricted, a heart attack can occur. Through the same process, the arteries that lead to the brain become blocked, a stroke can happen.

Another thing that high cholesterol may cause: Alzheimer’s disease. Having high cholesterol levels may accelerate the formation of certain kinds of plaques called beta-amyloid plaques, which are sticky protein deposits that damage the brain in people with this condition.

Plaque build-up in the arteries leading to the kidneys can decrease kidney function. The primary function of the kidneys is in removing toxins and waste from the body. A decrease in function can lead to chronic kidney disease. Over time, this can lead to a need for dialysis and in some cases, cause death.

Another thing that can happen is peripheral artery disease. This happens when plaque builds up in the arteries that lead to the pelvis. This can lead to numbness, pain, and certain kinds of infection.

High cholesterol can have an enormous effect on your arteries. A restriction in your blood flow can cause numerous problems for your body. So if your doctor detects that you have a problem, get it treated! Treatments can include dietary changes to a healthier diet, more exercise, and prescription medication.

 

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/cholesterol/effects-on-body#4

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol

https://myharnetthealth.org/cholesterol-affects-more-than-your-heart/

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/atherosclerosis

Vein Relief – Other Diseases that Affect Arteries and Veins

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Veins and arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to your other organs and back again. This network of veins and arteries is called the vascular system. Like other parts of our bodies, it has its own unique diseases. When considering the kinds of diseases and conditions that affect the vascular system, some people immediately think of high cholesterol, spider veins, and varicose veins. Yet, there are many more vascular diseases. Here are just a few.

Erythromelalgia

Erythromelalgia is a rare vascular disorder that affects the feet and, less commonly, the hands. The condition is primarily characterized by intense burning pain in the affected extremities, extreme redness, and increased skin temperature. The condition may be episodic or it may be continuous. It is a rare disorder, affecting approximately 1.3 people per 1,000. Patients may feel this condition is exacerbated by exposure to heat and exercise. Relief is obtained by cooling off the affected extremities. Prescription medication that relieves nerve pain and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed to treat this.

Buerger’s Disease

Buerger’s disease is another rare vascular condition. The condition is also known as thromboangiitis obliterans. It primarily affects young or middle-aged male cigarette smokers. The disease is characterized by the narrowing of the veins and arteries of the extremities, resulting in reduced blood flow. The legs are more affected by Buerger’s disease than the hands. Those affected by Buerger’s disease may develop sores and ulcers on the feet and hands. In rare cases, tissue death has occurred. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but those primarily affected are heavy cigarette smokers. Treatment is to first stop smoking and then treatment becomes supportive. Supportive treatment includes vasodilators, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic medication.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is caused by the condition atherosclerosis, which refers to the build-up of plaque within the arteries, which restricts blood flow. The most common symptoms of PAD involving the lower extremities include cramping, pain, or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles. The pain occurs generally when walking or climbing stairs, and abates when rested. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and age are all risk factors for PAD. Many cases of PAD are treated with lifestyle changes and medication.

Coronary Artery Disease

This refers to the build-up of plaques in the arteries that can lead to a heart attack. Another name given to this condition is coronary heart disease. The plaques decrease blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. Common risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and family history. Obesity may also be a risk factor. Treatment can include a healthy lifestyle, physical activity, and medications to help lower cholesterol when prescribed.

These are just a few of the diseases that can affect the vascular system. While some are rare disorders, others are quite common. Diagnosis is an important part of treatment and most diagnoses can painlessly take place in a doctor’s office. If you believe that you are affected by one of these conditions, it is important that you see your doctor. Your physician may refer you to a vascular specialist.

 

Sources:

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/erythromelalgia/

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/buergers-disease/

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/peripheral-artery-disease/about-peripheral-artery-disease-pad

http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/coronary-artery-disease

Do Not Leave Varicose Veins Untreated

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No, You Shouldn’t Leave Varicose Veins Untreated

They’re unsightly. They bulge. They can be blue, purple, or reddish in color. They usually occur in the legs.

In case you hadn’t already guessed it, we’re talking about varicose veins. Varicose veins develop when the veins in the legs are no longer efficiently pumping the blood back up to your heart. The blood can flow backward, pool, and cause the veins to distend and become swollen.

Aside from being a cosmetic issue, varicose veins can also be painful, itchy, and make your legs feel heavier. While genetics is one common risk factor for developing varicose veins, others are also common. Pregnancy, obesity, being sedentary or being on your feet for prolonged periods, as well as age are other common risk factors for the development of varicose veins.

There are things that you can do to help diminish varicose veins if you already have them or help to diminish the risk of the varicose veins from ever developing. When pregnant, elevate your feet when possible. You may also want to consider compression stockings. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, get up and get moving! This can help curb the other risk factor, obesity, as well. If you’re on your feet a lot, take time to sit down and if possible, elevate your feet.

While all of these steps can help with varicose veins, if you have developed them and the above do not appear to be helping, you might want to consider having your varicose veins professionally treated. If you leave varicose veins untreated, you could place yourself at risk for developing some potentially dangerous conditions, such as the following:

Skin Ulcers

Blood pooling in your veins also means that blood isn’t getting to where it needs to go. That includes wounds, which need blood flow to heal. Leaving varicose veins untreated can lead to skin ulcers from small cuts or minor wounds that refuse to heal. The area will swell and the tension from the veins prevents the swelling from receding. In order to treat the veins, you’ll have to first treat the swelling

 Spontaneous Bleeding

Varicose veins are very close to the surface of the skin. A relatively minor wound like a cut or a nick can result in extensive bleeding. A patient with varicose veins will remain at risk for this until the veins are treated.

Lipodermatosclerosis

This is venous insufficiency that can lead to the hardening and discoloration of the skin around varicose veins. This can result in pain and swelling around the varicose veins, especially around the ankles.

Blood Clots

This is one of the more serious effects that can occur if varicose veins are left untreated. One of the worst of these is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can send you to the emergency room if it develops. The primary risk here is that the blood clot can break off, which can result in the potentially fatal condition called a pulmonary embolism. Blood clots will need to be treated as soon as possible to avoid this from happening.

The good news is that there are several treatment options for varicose veins. Contact a specialist for treatment for your varicose veins today.

Sources:

https://www.centerforvein.com/shouldnt-leave-varicose-veins-untreated/

https://www.medicusveincare.com/happens-leave-varicose-veins-untreated/

https://regenerativedelaware.com/varicose-vein-removal-why-you-shouldnt-leave-varicose-veins-untreated/

 

Are Varicose Veins Hereditary?

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You got your blue eyes from your father, and your brown hair from your mother. You might even have inherited your knack for baking from your grandmother. What about those varicose veins? Did you happen to inherit those as well?

Before we can go into whether or not your mother, grandmother, or some distant relative might be to blame for those unsightly, bulging veins in your legs, first know that you are not alone. Varicose veins affect 30% of adults. If you’re over 50, about half of your peers of the same age are affected.

Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood back to your heart. When it comes to the veins in your legs, they are working against gravity so they have to be able to pump pretty well to accomplish their task. This is accomplished through the use of valves that open and close to speed the blood upwards to your heart. When these valves stop working as well as they should, blood is allowed backward and can pool. This pooling stretches the vein walls, causing the bulging appearance of varicose veins.

Now, to answer the question: Are varicose veins hereditary? While it is certainly true that increased risk for varicose veins is certainly an inherited factor, you’re not necessarily doomed to inherit your mom or grandmother’s varicose veins. There are other risk factors that can contribute to raising the chances you may develop this condition.

In fact, if you help to prevent other risk factors, you can improve your chances of never even developing varicose veins to begin with.

Other risk factors include:

Pregnancy:

When your stomach grows as your pregnancy progresses, pressure is placed on the inferior vena cava, which can lead to varicose veins. Take heart, though, because varicose veins that appear as a side effect of pregnancy usually go away once you’ve given birth.

Being Overweight/Obese:

Being overweight or obese places strain on those veins. It can also cause the veins to be less efficient at getting blood back up to the heart, which can cause varicose veins. Losing weight may help reduce your risk and if you already have varicose veins, can help diminish them.

Standing or Sitting for Long Periods

People who have jobs that require standing on their feet or remaining seated for long periods are at increased risk of developing varicose veins. If you have a job that requires standing, make sure that you sit down and elevate your feet on breaks. If your job requires sitting for extended periods, be sure to get regular exercise and stand up to stretch every few hours.

Age

As discussed earlier, 50% of adults over the age of 50 have varicose veins. As we age, so do our veins. As we get older, the valves become less efficient at doing their jobs, and the risk of developing varicose veins increases.

While having a close relative that developed varicose veins is a risk factor, you’re not necessarily doomed to inherit grandma’s varicose veins. Take care to reduce your other risk factors and you might just inherit her pie-baking skills instead.

 

Sources:

https://www.fishertitus.org/health/are-varicose-veins-hereditary

https://www.azuravascularcare.com/infoveins/are-varicose-veins-hereditary/

https://www.centerforvein.com/varicose-veins-hereditary/

https://www.mainlinelegs.com/are-vein-disorders-hereditary/

 

Pregnancy & Varicose Veins

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As your pregnancy advances, you may begin to notice blue or purple-ish veins appearing on your legs. While their appearance may be alarming, there isn’t much to worry about. Varicose veins during pregnancy are quite common, appearing in 10-20% of women, and usually go away after giving birth.

They differ from spider veins and visible veins in that they typically swell up, creating a bulge above the skin. While they normally develop in the legs, they can also develop in the area of the vulva and in the rectum. Rectal varicose veins are sometimes referred to as hemorrhoids, which are another side-effect of pregnancy.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are veins that have swollen. They often bulge near the surface of the skin. Many women experience no discomfort whatsoever, but some will experience pain or heaviness in their legs. They may also experience itching, throbbing, or burning. These symptoms may be worse for women that spend a lot of time on their feet.

Cause of Varicose Veins

Veins are the blood vessels that return blood to your heart from your extremities. Remember that veins in your legs are already working against gravity. As your pregnancy progresses and you get larger, pressure is placed on a vein on the right side of your body, called the inferior vena cava. This, combined with the increased amount of blood circulating during pregnancy and the rising hormone levels of progesterone relaxing the walls of your blood vessels, results in varicose veins.

There are a few things that can increase your risk of developing varicose veins:

  • Family history of varicose veins
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Carrying more than one fetus
  • Standing for long periods

Unfortunately, if you are already prone to varicose veins, they might get worse with subsequent pregnancies.

Varicose Vein Prevention

While you may not be able to completely prevent varicose veins from developing, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the number and size of varicose veins.

  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods. Take frequent breaks to change your position and move around.
  • Avoid high heels during pregnancy
  • Talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe, and then exercise regularly
  • Avoid crossing your legs or ankles while sitting
  • Elevate your legs while sitting or lying down
  • Sleep on your left side
  • Decrease sodium intake
  • Drink plenty of water and get enough fiber to help prevent constipation to avoid hemorrhoids
  • Wear maternity support hose

If you notice that your veins feel hard, warm, painful, or the skin around the varicose veins hardens, contact your doctor.

After Pregnancy    

The good news is that most of the time, varicose veins will go away on their own after pregnancy. Once your uterus is no longer exerting pressure on the inferior vena cava, circulation returns to normal. However, if your varicose veins do not gradually go away then you may need additional treatment. If you have concerns with your varicose veins and you are pregnant, speak with one of our physicians for an examination.

 

Sources:

https://www.babycenter.com/0_varicose-veins-during-pregnancy_271.bc

http://americanpregnancy.org/naturally/treating-varicose-veins-naturally-during-pregnancy/

https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/varicose-veins.aspx

 

Treatments for Deep Vein Thrombosis

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Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a serious and painful complication of the veins. In layman’s terms, it is a clot in one of the deeper veins of the body, most common in the arms and legs. Clots can form when blood pools in one location for too long, which is why people with varicose veins have a higher likelihood of getting DVT.

These clots don’t just cause pain in the legs. If they break off, they can lodge elsewhere in the body. If they get to the heart or the lungs, it can be deadly. Therefore, it’s important to get treated for DVT as soon as it is detected.

Fortunately, there are several treatments for DVT, including: 

Blood Thinners

Over time, blood rushing past a clot will dissolve it. But if pooled blood sticks to the clot, it can grow bigger. Blood thinners make it harder for blood to clot and help the body remove it over time. It can also keep new clots from forming. There are many different thinners and your doctor will work with you to find the best one.

Going on blood thinners can mean that you’ll need to change your diet. Certain thinners like warfarin will stop working if you eat too much vitamin K. You may also need to get regular blood tests to measure how well the medicine is working. There are newer medicines on the market that don’t require diet changes and testing, but they can be more dangerous. Your doctor will explain the risks.

Catheter-Directed Thrombolysis

If the clot is large, not in a leg, or dangerous in some way, your doctor may also recommend catheter-directed thrombolysis. This involves injecting medicine directly into your clot to dissolve it. This is done through a catheter inserted into the vein. It requires a trip to the hospital because a dissolving clot might break up in unexpected ways and cause other health problems, including stroke. This procedure may also be combined with other treatments like angioplasty or a stent placement, depending on the condition of the vein.

Vena Cava Filters

If you’re at high risk for clotting, your doctor may recommend a vena cava filter. This is a special filter that sits in your vena cava, an important vein on your body. The purpose of the filter is to catch clots before they can reach your heart or lungs. This is a surgical procedure and may be recommended if your clots do not respond to other treatments. Once the danger of DVT has passed, you may need to get it removed.

Venous Thrombectomy 

Finally, in some cases, a doctor might recommend surgery for cutting the clot out. This is called a venous thrombectomy. This is a rare surgery and is only done in severe cases of DVT, as the surgery can increase the chances of further clots. Clots from DVT often respond very well to the other treatments, but not always.

In addition to these medical treatments, there are lifestyle changes you can do to help with your DVT. You might need to wear compression hose to reduce the pain while the clot dissolves. Moving more often will keep blood from pooling and help shrink existing clots. Ultimately, DVT is most often caused by poor circulation. Stay active and get your varicose veins treated!

What is DVT and How do I Know if I Have It?

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DVT or deep vein thrombosis means just what the name suggests.  A blood clot in one of your deep veins.  The most common location for the occurrence of DVT is in your lower legs, although it can occur in other parts of the body.  If the clot becomes dislodged and begins to travel it is no longer known as a thrombus and becomes an embolus, which depending on where it travels, may lead to a life-threatening situation.

Risk Factors for DVT

DVT has multiple causes and multiple risk factors which include the following:

  • Family history of blood clots
  • Diabetes
  • Poor circulation resulting from peripheral vascular disease
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary Lifestyle and prolonged crossing of the legs
  • Frequent Flying
  • Varicose Veins

Any condition in which blood flow is restricted may cause blood to pool in the affected area and lead to clotting.  Main complications from the clot include blocking the circulation below the affected area, leading to further swelling and potential infection of the vein, an increase in the size of the clot or formation of more clots in the area, and complete loss of circulation to the area.  These complications may lead to the injury and death of tissues surrounding the area.

How do I know if I have DVT?

In some cases, there are no early symptoms of DVT.  That is why it is important to know your risk factors and take measures to prevent DVT from occurring if you are at risk.  The primary symptom of DVT is pain to the affected area, the pain is described as a deep pain.  If the DVT is located in the calf, the pain is worse upon flexing the foot and lower leg upwards at the heel.  This is known as a positive Homans sign.  Your venous specialist or healthcare provider will actually perform this test upon examination.  Other symptoms may also include swelling, numbness and tingling in surrounding areas, and discoloration.  If the clot is in the lower leg, the leg may appear dusky or darker in color.  Sometimes, skin ulcers may also occur.  If the tissues surrounding the clot become infected, redness with or without streaking, may be present, and the area will become hot to the touch.  You may even develop a fever.

Your doctor will take a full medical history to determine your risk factors and make an initial diagnosis of the condition.  Tests will be ordered that allow for direct visualization of the clot, such as ultrasounds as well as determine the effect of the clot on circulation.

When should I call my doctor?

If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor or vein specialist right away.  Do not massage the area and assume bedrest to reduce the possibility of dislodging the clot, causing it to possibly travel to the heart, lungs or brain. DVT is an emergent medical condition and should be treated right away to avoid potential life-threatening complications.

Varicose Veins Affect More Than Appearances

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Complications from Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are large, twisted, clustered visible veins.  They commonly appear in the legs and lower body because of gravity and blood pooling.  Unlike arteries, vein walls do not contract to push blood flow back through the lower body and to the heart.  Venous circulation involves the use of muscles and one-way valves to move blood in the right direction.

Different factors can affect returning blood flow from the lower body producing effects similar to a traffic jam.  Faulty valves can cause blood to travel in two directions causing congestion and stretching of venous tissue.  As we age, tissues in the veins are not as supple and elastic.

Sedentary lifestyles function as double-edged swords for people with varicose veins.  The pelvic angle has a constricting effect.  In addition, crossing the legs at the knees, and inactivity lessen the muscle contractions needed to keep the blood flowing.

Without treatment and lifestyle changes, varicose veins may lead to more severe illnesses and complications, potentially compromising other organs.

Swelling and Inflammation

As blood continues to pool in the legs, the resistance encountered against vein walls pushes water content into adjacent tissues.  This results in swelling, particularly around the lower legs, feet, and ankles.  Fluid consistency is felt upon pressing the skin around the affected area.  Indentations, known as pitting, are seen for seconds after release.  Fluid weight and pressure on surrounding tissues and nerve endings lead to pain, fatigue, and leg heaviness.  Swelling also occurs with circulatory disorders and heart failure.  Fluctuations in weight of more than a couple of pounds within a short period indicate additional fluid retention.

Sores, Ulcers, and Eczema

As fluid continues to build within the veins and tissues, pressure is exerted under the skin.  Fluid then begins seeping from the surface.  The continued moisture eventually leads to irritation or eczema.  The skin will become itchy, scaly, and red.  Blisters may also form and rupture leading to sores.  Excess moisture causes the tissues to breakdown forming ulcers.  Continued exposure and lack of circulation will eventually lead to skin death around the affected areas. Illnesses, which compromise circulation, such as Diabetes and vascular diseases, increase the speed at which tissue damage and infection occurs.

Bleeding and Bruising

Superficial varicose veins, termed spider veins, hold a fair amount of excess blood.  Small cuts, bumps, and scrapes lead to excessive bleeding and bruising.  The delicate skin surrounding these areas are also more prone to injuries.  Poor circulation can slow the time they take to heal and create a portal for infection. Dilated capillaries can also spontaneously burst and lead to bruising and blood pockets under the skin.

Hard Discolored Skin

Prolonged fluid build-up and swelling cause the skin to take on a drum-like appearance.  The area becomes hardened and dark discolorations occur.  Areas most commonly affected include the calves and ankles. The condition becomes painful and may impair walking. 

Blood Clots

Stagnated blood in the veins leads to blood clots, which can block oxygen and vital nutrients from reaching other cells and tissues.  This results in pain, loss of feeling, impaired function, and tissue death.  Surgery is required to restore circulation, and amputation is used as a last resort. Blood clots located in deep veins can become dislodged. Once this happens, they can become lodged in other areas of the body affecting major organs.  Clots lodging in the lungs, heart, and brain may lead to a heart attack, respiratory failure, stroke, and sudden death. Life-threatening complications are a rare occurrence. Painful enlarged calves are a telltale symptom, and the pain worsens when the foot is flexed.

Phlebitis

Inflammation within the vein, itself, is known as phlebitis. Varicose veins are a likely culprit of the condition.  Phlebitis is very painful and occurs with or without clotting.  Heat and streaking accompany the inflammatory response.  Untreated, infection can spread into the blood traveling to the kidneys and other organs.  Once the infection becomes widespread, the condition is known as sepsis.

Poor Circulation

More blood trapped in the veins means there is less blood available to carry life-giving nutrients to other tissues.  The heart works harder to feed hungry organs leading to fatigue. Leg heaviness contributes to feeling like you are in slow motion. Varicose veins are also associated with obesity and sedentary lifestyles, further contributing to sluggishness.  This creates a vicious cycle in which the symptoms feed the condition.

Varicose veins do not only affect your appearance. Complications can affect your quality of life, health, mobility, and vital functions.  Strategies to alleviate associated symptoms include modifications in diet, exercise, rest, clothing, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. Treatments range from minimally invasive laser surgery, radiologic intervention, and saline injections to surgical procedures, such as ligating and stripping the veins.  More invasive procedures are usually reserved for persons experiencing symptoms or complications.

What to Expect Before and After Venous Ligation and Stripping

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Venous ligation, as the name implies, essentially means tying off varicose veins through small incisions made in the skin at the affected areas.  Vein stripping refers to the removal of larger varicose veins in a similar manner.  Both procedures are usually done in outpatient surgery centers or in a hospital setting.  Many times, both procedures are included in one surgery. Venous ligation is often done in areas where blood pooling occurs due to the weakened veins, while stripping and removal are performed to eliminate more tortuous vessels. This type of surgical intervention is often performed to both treat and reduce the reoccurrence of varicose veins.  These procedures are considered surgical procedures, and will require you to follow guidelines to both prepare and recover from the surgery.

 

How do I prepare for Venous Ligation and Stripping?

The first step to preparing for venous surgery is to discuss all your options with your vein specialist.  He or she will more than likely perform a full history and physical, including a full medical and medication history.  Laboratory tests will also be performed to identify potential risks, such as hemorrhage, infection, and potential complications from the anesthetics used during the procedure.  Ultrasounds and other diagnostic testing will also be performed to pin point the affected areas and determine the proper course of surgery.  Often times the areas are marked with ink the day before the surgery.

Some medicines may need to be temporarily stopped before the procedure.  These may include blood thinners, such as coumadin, and non-steroidal pain medications, such as Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. Daily aspirin regimens will also be temporarily discontinued prior to the procedure and for a time period after. Heart, blood pressure, and diabetes medications are taken with a small amount of water before the procedure and continued immediately thereafter. Your vein specialist will discuss your presurgical plan with you during your consultations before the surgery.

 

What Happens After the Surgery?

Venous ligation and stripping are generally shorter and uncomplicated procedures, and patients are usually sent home the same day.  In more severe instances, a short hospital stay may be required.  A family member or friend will need to be available for transportation after the surgery and should remain with you for a period of 24 hours in case of complications immediately after.

Severe pain is unlikely, but you may experience burning and tingling after the surgery. If numbness and discolorations are noted to unaffected areas after the procedure, it is important to notify your vein surgeon.  For general discomfort, mild painkillers, such as ibuprofen are usually prescribed or recommended.

You will more than likely come home with dressings after the surgery.  Those should not be changed for 1 to 2 days after the procedure unless they become soiled.  Compression stockings should also be worn continuously after the procedure for at least three days.  The stockings should only be taken off when showering or sleeping during that time.

Avoid prolonged sitting or standing after the procedure and exercise regimens can be generally resumed one to two weeks after.  Walking short distances is generally indicted 24 to 48 hours after surgery, and the intensity and duration of your walks can be increased as swelling, pain, and stiffness are relieved.  You may usually resume driving 48 hours after surgery.

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