The Truth Behind Myths About Varicose Veins

Photo of Dr. Adam Keefer

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There are two common myths about veins in the leg that become swollen and stretched, or varicose, and they sometimes keep people from getting necessary treatment: Treatment for varicose veins is mostly for cosmetic reasons, and sore, achy legs with bulging veins are the result of standing or sitting too long.

The truth behind the first myth is that cosmetic treatments are primarily linked to spider veins, which often cover the legs and even the face. They are damaged veins that appear to be similar to varicose veins, only thinner, according Dr. Adam Keefer, a board-certified vascular surgeon and varicose vein expert at Coastal Vascular & Vein Center in Charleston.

Though spider veins may be associated with varicose veins, the issue is seen as cosmetic, and treatment is elective.

“Sore, achy legs, bulging veins and even open wounds that won’t heal, in truth, are often signs of a more serious medical condition,” Dr. Keefer said.

Veins can become varicose when the valves that control blood circulation are damaged or diseased; they weaken and no longer do their job. Instead of blood moving toward the heart like it should, blood stays in place and pools in the vein of the leg.

“A leaking vein could be a sign of chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI; liver disease; heart disease; or blockages,” Dr. Keefer explained.

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CVI is a progressive medical condition in which the valves that carry blood from the legs to the heart no longer function, causing blood to pool in the legs and veins to swell. There are several contributing factors to varicose veins and CVI, including pregnancy and heredity.

Dr. Keefer and the Coastal Vascular & Vein Center team do a lot of arterial and venous work; treatments for varicose veins is one branch of that work. For Dr. Keefer, “one of the biggest rewards in varicose vein work is being able to give people a lot of relief in a relatively short amount of time.”

“There is also reward in being able to heal chronic wounds that have bothered a patient for more than a year,” Dr. Keefer added.

Compression stockings often are the first option to manage symptoms, and there are a variety of other therapies.

Many times, a problem can be fixed before a patient goes home.

“Patients can walk in and walk out. It’s that simple,” Dr. Keefer said.

Initially, one of Dr. Keefer’s patients felt anxious about her varicose veins and treatments, but she left CVVC giving the whole experience “an 11/10.”

Dr. Keefer offered several proactive measures that people can take to avoid vein issues, including:
• Exercise regularly to increase the blood flow in your legs;
• Maintain a healthy weight;
• Elevate your legs in the evening;
• Wear compression stockings if you are on your feet or sitting a lot


Without treatment, people with CVI may experience progressive symptoms that can be debilitating and significantly impact quality of life. People who suffer from CVI may experience:
• Leg heaviness or tiredness;
• Leg or ankle swelling;
• Varicose veins;
• Itching, restless leg;
• Skin changes or rashes;
• Brown, colored skin on leg;
• Ulcers, open sores;
• Leg pain, aching or cramping.

To learn more, visit:
The Coastal Vascular & Vein Center
1327 Ashley River Road, Charleston
coastalvvc.com • 843-577-4551

By Lisa Moody Breslin

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