Most people consider them unsightly.
Your doctor, however, might think they’re signaling something quite serious.
Varicose veins, those large, bulging blue veins commonly found on the back of the leg, are typically thought of as a cosmetic issue. Some 3 million people a year receive treatment for varicose veins. But according to Dr. Richard Jacoby of the Scottsdale Neuropathy Institute, varicose veins and other vein issues could be indicative of a bigger problem.
“Veins and varicose veins are my current area of investigation,” said Jacoby, who is a trained podiatrist. “I find this fascinating. The public doesn’t perceive this as a medical issue, but the fact is that this is a warning from your body.”
Understanding varicose veins
Arteries and capillaries send blood throughout your body. Your veins are the return mechanism, delivering the blood back to the heart to continue the cycle. But if veins can’t pump that blood against gravity and back to the heart, the blood can pool, the veins can stretch, and flaps in the vein can separate. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute describes this phenomenon as veins becoming “like overstretched rubber bands.”
Those swollen veins can make legs aching or feeling swollen. They’re physically visible. But they’re also telling you something — your body is carrying way too much sugar in the bloodstream.
“Sugar and carbohydrates absorb water,” Jacoby said. “Fat and protein repel water. The elasticity of the blood vessel wall gets dilated from gravity — and those vessels have to process more because we’re eating too much sugar. The human body was built to function on fat-based energy.”
In his book “Sugar Crush,” Dr. Jacoby outlines how the sugar-laden American diet causes dozens of different, seemingly unrelated, diseases. Sugar, he says, inflames our nerves and blood vessels, and makes it harder for our organs to function. The result is inflammation throughout the body — varicose veins are a symptom of a bigger problem.
“We call this venous reflux and venous hypertension,” Jacoby said. “It can affect neuropathy and other medical issues.”
Fortunately, there is a treatment for varicose veins. Called venous ablation, the procedure reduces the volume of blood that flows through the vein and, as a result, reduces the appearance of varicose veins.
Before the ablation procedure, Dr. Jacoby asks his patients to work on two behavioral treatments: First, they need to change their diet and remove sugar; second, they wear support stockings to squeeze excess fluid out of the veins.
The ablation procedure is conducted in an office setting.
“It’s a good remedy to get rid of that heavy, tired, burning sensation in the veins,” Jacoby said.
After treatment, Dr. Jacoby insists that patients continue to monitor their diets, and remove sugar from their daily eating routine.
“We’re eating sugar all day — it’s hidden in what we eat,” Dr. Jacoby said. “And we’re also sitting at a desk all day, so we’re not using our deep muscles. Our legs are swelling more and more. Your body is telling you something. If left untreated, those veins could go on to develop an ulcer.”