Capitol Vein Blog

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Obesity and Varicose Veins - Is There a Link?


Over 40 million Americans are affected with significant superficial venous insufficiency, and many of them may have edema or swelling based on increased venous pressure in the legs. As gravity pushes downward, the weak veins are unable to push the blood forward, leading to the heaviness and pressure seen with venous reflux. We know that heredity plays a large role in determining who is at risk for varicose veins.  Pregnancy and blood clots also increase the risk for venous insufficiency.

Many patients have been told that their swollen painful legs are directly related to being overweight and that weight loss alone will remedy their problem.  As a vascular surgeon, I can attest that weight loss alone will not “cure” varicose veins. The cause of venous disease is weakness of the vein wall, not just the additional body weight. I find that when patients lose significant weight, the leg veins are actually more visible as the fat melts away, revealing the large protruding varicosities.  It’s important to remember that the symptoms associated with venous disease can be present even in the absence of visible leg veins.

The remedy starts with a thorough venous duplex ultrasound exam, followed by a detailed examination and discussion with your specialist. Typically, saphenous vein reflux leads to lower leg varicose veins. When this reflux is eliminated with the Venefit Procedure (VNUS Closure), the elevated pressure resolves, leg symptoms abate, and oftentimes swelling is reduced.

I would encourage overweight patients with leg aching, heaviness, and swelling to seek advice from an experienced phlebologist, or vein specialist. A member of the American Venous Forum or American College of Phlebology will usually have the requisite skills and understanding of your condition to give you the proper recommendation.

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