SCRIPT NUMBER 122 VARICOSE VEINS - 2 (TWO SPEAKERS)

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1 SCRIPT NUMBER 122 VARICOSE VEINS - 2 (TWO SPEAKERS) PROGRAM NAME: HEALTH NUGGETS PROGRAM TITLE: VARICOSE VEINS - 2 PROGRAM NUMBER: 122 SUBJECT: SYMPTOMS, CAUSES, TREATMENT, PREVENTION OF VARICOSE VEINS KEY WORDS: COMPRESSION, FEMALE HORMONES, ULCERS, LASER DATE OF SCRIPT: JULY 26, 2013 AUTHOR: RICHARD YUKL, MD, FACS You may know someone who suffers severe varicose veins those enlarged and twisted rope-like clusters of veins seen in the legs and feet. You may feel sorry for them because their legs are unsightly, and you may have wondered if their condition is painful or dangerous. Today, we want to talk about varicose veins and their effect on our health. Our bodies were created with arteries to carry blood from our heart to the rest of our body. Veins then return the blood back to the heart. What causes the veins to become enlarged and twisted?

2 Our veins must work against gravity to return blood from our legs back to the heart. Muscle contractions in our legs act as pumps, and the elastic within our vein walls helps the blood to return. Mainly, however, tiny valves in our veins open as blood flows toward the heart, then close to stop blood from flowing backwards. As we age, the valves in our veins weaken, allowing blood that should be moving toward the heart to flow backward, causing the veins to enlarge. What are the risk factors for my developing varicose veins? Varicose veins, either mild or severe, affect approximately half of all middle-aged adults, and they are twice as common in women as in men. An inherited weakness of the vein walls is by far the most important risk factor. Other contributing factors include pregnancy and female hormones. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in a woman s body, while changes in the hormones during pregnancy relax the veins, allowing more nutrition to flow to the developing baby. This change in blood flow can produce the unfortunate side effect of creating or enlarging varicose veins in the woman s legs. The enlarged uterus of late pregnancy also puts ever-greater pressure on the veins of her pelvis and legs, and that can cause her veins to enlarge. Other risk factors include being overweight, trauma to the legs, being physically inactive and having the need to stand or sit for long periods of time without moving about. If you stay in the same position for long periods of time without working your leg muscles, your

3 veins may develop varicosities because they must work much harder to move blood from your legs toward your heart. Describe my symptoms if I develop varicose veins. Symptoms can include aching, numbness, itching and a burning feeling in your legs, as well as night cramps and restless legs. Are varicose veins dangerous? Complications are rare, but they can be dangerous and even life threatening. Ulcers can develop over the enlarged veins just above your ankles. These ulcers are extremely painful, and they can take months to heal. They require constant dressing changes, and they are prone to infection. Occasionally, varicose veins become so enlarged that blood flow through them slows dramatically, allowing blood clots to form. The clotted veins cause swelling, discoloration, pain and skin rashes in the involved leg for years into the future, but they represent a very dangerous complication because the clots can break loose and travel into your heart or lungs. If the clot that breaks loose is large, it can kill you. Describe the treatment for varicose veins.

4 If you suffer mild to moderate-sized varicose veins, treatment involves self-care as basic as exercising, losing weight and not wearing tight clothes. You must also avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time, and elevate your legs whenever you can. Self-care is intended to ease the discomfort of varicose veins, and to prevent the vein enlargement from getting worse. Wearing compression stockings is helpful, because compression stockings steadily squeeze your legs, helping the veins and leg muscles to move blood more efficiently. Compression stockings should be worn all day. They can be purchased in most pharmacies, but your legs need to be measured to insure a proper fit. If the stockings are too tight, they could make the problem worse. What if my condition is severe? Your doctor can inject the enlarged veins with a medicine that scars them closed. In locations where such equipment is available, laser treatments can be used to close off smaller varicose veins. Lasers work by sending strong bursts of light into the vein, causing it to scar closed. If varicose veins of the legs become extremely large or difficult to control, a surgeon can remove them and all of their enlarged branches with an operation. Removal of the superficial veins will not affect circulation of blood through your leg because veins deep in the leg are adequate to move the larger volumes of blood they will be required to carry once the more superficial veins have been removed.

5 How can I prevent developing varicose veins in the first place? First, keep your legs moving. Walking is a great way to encourage blood circulation in your legs. Next, watch your weight. Losing excess fat from your belly will lessen the pressure on your leg veins. Avoid wearing high heels. Low-heeled shoes work your calf muscles more, and that is better for your veins. Don t wear clothes that are tight around your waist or groin, because that can slow blood returning from your legs. Finally, avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Consciously remember to change your position every 30 minutes or so to encourage blood flow, and take several rest periods every day to elevate your legs above the level of your heart. Simply sitting with your legs resting on three or four pillows will help blood to flow back to your heart. Health Nuggets is written by Dr. Richard Yukl, a medical doctor working in the United States. The medical views expressed in this program are his and may differ for your particular health needs. If you need medical advice, please consult a medical professional in your area.

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