Capitol Vein Blog

Friday, August 9, 2013

Venous Causes and Treatment For Leg Swelling

Leg swelling can be caused by many different factors, such as heart issues, prior surgery, medication side effects and weight gain. One of the very common causes is venous insufficiency, or backflow in the surface leg veins.  I recently read an interesting article on “Edema:  Diagnosis and Management” in American Family Physician, the medical journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).  The article highlighted the common misunderstanding that even doctors have related to patients with leg swelling. 

As vascular surgeons and venous disease specialists, Dr. McNeill and I know that venous insufficiency usually leads to surface varicose veins, which can cause symptoms of aching, heaviness and fatigue. Another frequent complaint we hear is that of leg swelling. Backpressure in certain leg veins leads to pooling of the blood in the lower leg, as gravity exerts its downward pressure. As this occurs throughout the day, patients find that the legs are tight or swollen by day's end. This is especially true with patients who are on their feet all day, such as teachers, nurses, or retail workers.

Compression hose are beneficial in alleviating the symptoms, but ultimately, a venous ultrasound is needed to determine if veins are, in fact, causing the swelling. If so, the Venefit Procedure is a commonly used technique to eliminate the blood pooling, which leads to resolution of the leg swelling. I've seen numerous patients with problematic leg swelling who had exhausted their options, only to discover after evaluation that they have venous reflux, or chronic venous insufficiency. After having the Venefit Procedure, they've seen a significant reduction is swelling and leg discomfort.

Unfortunately, as seen in the AAFP article that was distributed to thousands of primary care physicians, this evaluation and treatment plan is not mentioned once, though other options with no scientific validation are promoted, such as horse chestnut extract.  Primary care physicians must take the time and familiarize themselves with venous issues, so they can advise their patients when to seek a vein evaluation instead of suffering with pain and swelling. 

For additional information on vein issues, please refer to our website or the American Venous Forum. Contact one of the Capitol Vein & Laser offices in Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia to schedule an evaluation, where the doctor will conduct a thorough evaluation, assess your medical condition, and offer advice accordingly.  Both Dr. McNeill and I are experienced vascular surgeons with many years of expertise in treating venous disease.

Members of the AAFP can read the full article in American Family Practice by logging into their account. Read a synopsis by clicking here.   


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