JON SENKOWSKY, MD FACS
Venous disease is a health problem that affects almost everyone. Despite the fact venous disease has been acknowledged since the time of Hippocrates, hundreds of years B.C., innovative technology and significant diagnostic advances in treating venous disease are only now emerging in the field of vascular surgery.
Venous disease occurs for the simple reason that veins are always working against gravity. Veins in the legs carry blood from the leg to the heart. In order to cover this long distance efficiently, veins contain valves that allow blood to move up the leg, and not down. If these valves become destroyed, blood pools in the lower portion of the leg causing leg swelling, varicose veins and other venous problems. Typical symptoms include heaviness in the legs, swelling, development of varicose veins, and even skin damage, dry skin, and brownish pigmentation at the ankle level leading to ulcers.
Another more serious symptom includes blood clots in the legs. Indeed, recent reports indicate people who frequently fly in airplanes are at risk of developing blood clots, which can break free and cause pulmonary emboli. This situation appears to be minimized by the use of hose (see the Travel Socks section of the Support Hose Store web site).
The majority of people with venous disease have chronic problems with their legs. The most effective treatment can be found by making an accurate diagnosis; determining if blood clotting is present; and identifying whether any venous valve disorders are present. Valve disorders often indicate venous reflux, or pooling of the blood located in the deep veins of the muscle or on the surface veins underneath the skin. (The surface veins, when enlarged, are actually varicose veins.) By utilizing a machine called a Duplex Scan, a noninvasive and painless diagnostic test, all these questions can be answered.
Perhaps the simplest and most well known treatment for venous disease is the compression garment. Compression garments can be used to prevent the complications of venous disease. These are essentially tight hose or wraps that control the swelling in the leg by forcing the blood into the deeper veins. It is important to use gradient compression hose, obtained from a reputable manufacturer, such as Jobst, in order to get the right fit and avoid problems. The compression garments force the same amount of blood into a smaller volume of veins, resulting in more efficient removal of the blood from the lower extremities. A variety of different hose products, both knee high, thigh high, and waist high, and a variety of different strengths and colors, are now available from Jobst at The Support Hose Store. Other techniques, such as lymphedema wraps and pumps can be used in order to decrease the swelling associated with venous disease (see the lymphedema section of The Support Hose Store web site).
New techniques in the treatment of varicose veins are emerging. An accurate diagnosis with ultrasound and physical examination are essential for the correct care of varicose veins. Hose are the mainstay of treatment, and are available at www.supporthosestore.com, or by calling 1-800-515-4271 to speak to a certified fitter.
Dr. Senkowsky is a Board Certified vascular surgeon in private practice in Arlington, Texas. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a member of the American Society of Vascular Surgeons.