Varicose veins affect nearly half the U.S. adult population. With so many people looking for answers, there are plenty of opinions about how and why vein disease develops and the best treatment options available. If you are one of the millions of varicose vein sufferers, one vein expert says it's important to keep these four facts in mind.
1. It's a disease that doesn't discriminate
The American Society for Vascular Surgery estimates 40 million Americans have varicose veins; at least 17 percent are men and about 5 percent of all cases involve patients in their late teens or early 20s. And let's not forget that more and more celebrities are opening up about vein disease - Britney Spears, Emma Thompson and Kristin Davis, to name a few.
"I've been in the field for 20 years and in that time the age of the patients we see has steadily dropped. On any given day we might see people between 20 and 70 years old with vein disease," said Nick Morrison, a world-renowned phlebologist and founder of Morrison Vein Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz.
2. Heredity and pregnancy are common links
When it comes to varicose veins, you could blame your parents and your baby. Heredity is a major factor, as about 80 percent of those with vein disease also have parents or grandparents with it as well.
Pregnancy adds more risk for women who are pre-disposed to the condition. Hormone changes could influence the onset of varicose veins and the added pressure on the veins as a result of weight gain doesn't help either.
3. Vein disease is very treatable, not curable
Varicose veins are the result of valves inside a vein no longer opening and closing correctly, allowing blood to pool in an area instead of moving up to the heart. Vein stripping was the gold standard until the mid-1990s. The painful procedure involved the actual removal – or literally stripping out – of a problem vein.
Today's advanced vein procedures use Duplex ultrasound technology to deliver treatments inside the vein. Procedures like sclerotherapy and Endovenous Chemical Ablation (EVCA) administer guided injections to the exact area of the venus reflux.
Endovenous Laser Ablation delivers pulsed heat to the diseased vein wall, eliminating venous reflux at its source.
"While there is no cure for vein disease, today's treatment options do bring a quick recovery, less scarring and better long-term results," Morrison added.
4. Compression is critical
Support stockings are key to the healing process after treatment, and can minimize symptoms like leg fatigue and soreness. By simply squeezing the leg, they reduce pressure in the veins. They can also help to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (or leg blood clots) when combined with a walking regimen and elevating legs while sitting. "Compression stockings have even become fashionable these days," Morrison said. "If you have a history of vein disease or are starting to see some early signs, I always recommend incorporating them into your wardrobe."