Health Beat: Varicose veins: Fact, fiction and a cure

Health Beat: Varicose veins: Fact, fiction and a cure

NOVATO, Calif. - Varicose veins are caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins. They are big, bulging, and unsightly. For Christy Arntz, varicose veins were also painful.

"Well, they itch. They hurt. Your feet and ankles swell," Arntz said.

About half of people over 50 will develop varicose veins, but how much do you know about this common problem? True or false: Only women get varicose veins.

False. About 43 percent of men are expected to develop venous disease by the time they reach their sixties. Here's another: You can always see varicose veins.

"You can have this backward flow in the leg, creating enlarged superficial veins that stay under the skin enough so that it doesn't bulge," said Dr. Joel Erickson,  interventional cardiologist, Laser Light Treatment Center in Novato, Calif.

True or false: Varicose veins are hereditary.

That's true. In fact, family history is the biggest risk factor, but does prolonged standing cause varicose veins?

That's also true. Crossing your legs, however, does not. What about compression stockings? Can they solve the problem?

No. The stockings just relieve symptoms. Newer procedures, like this one, can.

Using an ultrasound to guide him, Erickson inserts a catheter and delivers heat to destroy Arntz's faulty vein.

Then, he injects a foam to close it and another liquid to help compress it. So, what do you think? Does insurance cover this procedure?

Erickson said many policies will. Arntz's did.

"I said, 'Well, let's get it done," said Arntz, who is now looking forward to pain-free legs.

Erickson said every insurance company has guidelines about coverage of vein disease, but normally if a patient has bulging varicose veins — as opposed to just spider veins — along with symptoms such as pain, aching,or leg fatigue, then there is a good chance of treatment coverage.

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