The following article was featured in the June 16, 2016 edition of the Lakeville Journal, “Ask the Hospitalist” column. For a complete copy of the newspaper, or for more information, please visit tricornernews.com.

Hospitalists are specialists in the care of patients who are in a hospital. At Sharon Hospital, for the past 17 years, that person has been Dr. Mark Marshall, director of the Hospitalist Program and hospital chief of staff. Send medical queries to him at mark.marshall@sharonhospital.com; any questions that we use will be presented anonymously.

Dear Mr. Marshall,
I am concerned about my varicose veins. They started when I was in my 20s after I had my children and have gotten bigger over the years. They are ugly and sometimes get sore when I’m on my feet all day. I have heard there is an operation to fix them. What do you recommend?

Thank you so much for your letter. I have worked with hundreds of patients with varicose veins over the years. They cause a lot of concern because of their appearance. Varicose veins are dilated, twisting veins that run underneath the skin of the legs. They are very common – about 30 to 50 percent of people have them. They can be unsightly and can occasionally progress to more serious vein conditions such as ulcerations of the skin and chronic swelling.

In women, they often begin after pregnancy and may run in families. Hormonal effects can contribute to enlarged varicose veins in those who are more susceptible to them.

They may increase with age.

Varicose veins are part of a group of vein disorders that run a spectrum from small spider veins to chronic and disabling leg swelling and ulceration of the skin. They result from dysfunction of the veins in the legs, which return blood to the heart. unlike arteries, which carry blood form the heart to the rest of the body and have muscles in their walls, veins depend on muscle contraction to squeeze the blood back to the heart against gravity. The veins have one-way valves in them that prevent back flow of the blood into the legs. When the veins dilate and the valves fail, varicose veins can result.

The treatment of varicose veins starts with compression stockings. The most effective are custom sized and are available by prescription from your primary care physician. They compress the veins, which decreases the pooling of blood in the legs.

For people with varicose veins that worsen despite compression treatment there are other options such as laser therapy, radiofrequency treatment, glue “sclerotherapy” and open surgical stripping.

Dr. Brian Yen, from Sharon Hospital’s Vein Treatment Center and an expert in laser therapy, explains, “Today’s treatments have advanced to the point where with virtually no pain and minimal recovery time problem veins can be eliminated.”

The first step in getting relief from your varicose veins is to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss your options.

I hope this information was helpful.

Dr. Mark J. Marshall, DO, MA, FACP, FHM is board certified in Internal Medicine and Palliative Medicine, chair section of Hospital Medicine, and chief of staff at Sharon Hospital.