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February 2008 Issue

Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins fail to work properly and allow blood to build up.
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Enlarged Veins Could Be a Health Warning

By Amanda Harper
Published February 2008

Enlarged blood vessels in the legs could be more than just a cosmetic concern.

Without treatment, problems with blood flow in the veins can cause chronic leg pain and sometimes death, according UC vascular health experts.

The good n
ews is that problems usually can be detected and treated before

they become debilitating or life-threatening.

Enlarged blood vessels, known as varicose veins, appear as bulging or twisted blue veins that are visible through the skin. They most commonly occur in the legs.

The condition occurs when the valves in the veins fail to work properly and allow blood to build up. Because these veins are very small, they cannot withstand extended periods of increased blood volume.

The excess blood causes damage to the vein valves and weakens the vessel wall, resulting in unappealing, often uncomfortable, raised spots on the legs.

“Your leg veins have to work against gravity to pump oxygen-rich blood through the vein valves and back up to the heart,” explains Amy Reed, MD, vascular surgeon and assistant professor surgery at UC.

“Problems occur when you stand or sit for extended periods because the blood in your leg veins starts to accumulate and hinder proper blood circulation.”

Severe cases can result in swelling, pain, non-healing ulcers (open wounds) and skin coloration changes in the legs.

Reed and her vascular surgery team offer a minimally invasive vascular procedure—known as radiofrequency ablation (RFA)—for the treatment of varicose veins.

During the RFA procedure, a catheter with tiny electrodes at its tip is inserted directly into the varicose vein. The surgeon then
administers heat to destroy vein tissue, causing the vessel to collapse and seal.

The vein, no longer able to carry blood, breaks up and is absorbed back into the body. 

This minimally invasive procedure replaces vein stripping, requires no sutures and is typically performed with local anesthetic.

For more information, call UC Surgeons at (513) 558-3700.

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