HEALTH WATCH: Varicose Veins

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Varicose veins–for some may just be a noticeable map of the vein system that runs throughout the legs. Some vein problems are simply cosmetic, but for others, varicose veins can lead to more serious problems such as damaged tissue and blood clots. Dr. Don Ives with the Laser Vein Center of Alaska specializes in problem veins, and every third Wednesday of the month offers free screenings to the public for people with painful leg veins or swelling in their legs from varicose veins.

"Varicose veins are a problem when the valve in the leg, the valve is supposed to open and close, blood should flow up, but not back, the problem is with some people these valves have stretched out and they are no longer functional. So they don't assist the blood to get back to the heart." Said Ives

He says that blood flows downward to the bottom of the leg towards your foot causing swelling and pain.

“We can see this problem on an ultra sound.”

Ives says 92 percent of the people with visible varicose veins have pain, or swelling of some kind. Whether that be leg cramps at night, difficulty sleeping, and pain with walking, are a few examples.

“So the healthy leg day is a free screening where we try to identify people with the problems that we can assist.” He said

Ives says most vein issues are genetic. If both of your parents have a vein problem you have a 90 percent chance, one parent you have a 47 percent chance. If Neither parent you still have a 20 percent chance of having a problem with leg veins so, it's hugely genetic. He says those who also may be at risk are those with a standing occupation, have had multiple pregnancies, have had leg injury or surgery or those who smoke. Preventative measures taken for those at risk are lifestyle changes and graduating compression stockings.

“These are stockings that are tighter at the ankle than they are at the calf or the thigh, that helps the vein valves work better and to get the blood back to the heart.” Said Ives

When asked if varicose veins affects those of a particular age...

“They seem to be worse in people's 40's, 50's and 60's, but again I have treated people age 16 years old up to 88 years old.” He Said

Dr. Ives says taking steps to monitor varicose veins, such as free screenings, can help to prevent future complications.