Varicose veins could mean big health problems

HOUSTON – Veins are notorious for taking away the beauty and appearance of your legs. Perhaps, more importantly, varicose veins can later lead to serious medical conditions.

A study of thousands of adults with varicose veins shows a significant increase in developing deep vein thrombosis, which can lead to blood clots in your legs.

There are treatments to fix the problem. They can be done in a doctor's office with minimal pain and burning, according to patient Ericka Brooke. She would know, she had a previous procedure done many years ago in one leg. When she did the other leg a couple weeks ago, she had a different experience.

“Within the next day, I didn't feel any pain. It was like my legs wasn't heavy or anything,” Brooke said.

That's when Dr. Carlos Hamilton III from Hamilton Vein Center used Varithena for her bulging veins. An ultrasound finds the vein and this needle injects foam to block the veins from the inside. Hamilton said this will redirect the blood and eliminate pain, pressure and swelling in legs.

“Some people have pain, some people have itching, burning, there's just a variety of issues that go along with that,” Hamilton said. “What we're really doing is just letting the deep veins get the blood out of the leg like they’re supposed to and just closing off the leak.”

Brooke is happy with the results, mostly because she says she's sleeping without pain.

“For me, it made a big difference, it made a real big difference. Yes, and now I’m able to get a good night's sleep without any pain,” she said.

Hamilton said while restless leg syndrome is neurological, some symptoms can manifest from vein damage. So, some people also find relief from restless leg symptoms after fixing varicose veins.

The procedures offered at Hamilton Vein Center are covered by insurance and Medicare.

However, not all veins need treatment. Actually, the doctor said some patients can benefit just from compression socks.

Hamilton Vein Center offers a website that helps you understand if you have may have varicose veins in the first place. UT Health also started a website where you can submit photos from the privacy of your own home and they offer to figure whether compression socks are enough. You will have to fill out a form and give them your information first.

There are some ways you could determine if you’re at risk for DVT.

Inheriting a blood-clotting disorder. Some people inherit a disorder that makes their blood clot more easily. This condition on its own might not cause blood clots unless combined with one or more other risk factors.

Prolonged bed rest, such as during a long hospital stay, or paralysis. When your legs remain still for long periods, your calf muscles don't contract to help blood circulate, which can increase the risk of blood clots.

Injury or surgery. Injury to your veins or surgery can increase the risk of blood clots.

Pregnancy. Pregnancy increases the pressure in the veins in your pelvis and legs. Women with an inherited clotting disorder are especially at risk. The risk of blood clots from pregnancy can continue for up to six weeks after you have your baby.

Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) or hormone replacement therapy. Both can increase your blood's ability to clot.

Being overweight or obese. Being overweight increases the pressure in the veins in your pelvis and legs.

Smoking. Smoking affects blood clotting and circulation, which can increase your risk of DVT.

Cancer. Some forms of cancer increase substances in your blood that cause your blood to clot. Some forms of cancer treatment also increase the risk of blood clots.

Heart failure. This increases your risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism. Because people with heart failure have limited heart and lung function, the symptoms caused by even a small pulmonary embolism are more noticeable.

Inflammatory bowel disease. Bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, increase the risk of DVT.

A personal or family history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. If you or someone in your family has had one or both of these, you might be at greater risk of developing a DVT.

Age. Being older than 60 increases your risk of DVT, though it can occur at any age.

Sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying. When your legs remain still for hours, your calf muscles don't contract, which normally helps blood circulate. Blood clots can form in the calves of your legs if your calf muscles don't move for long periods.