What Construction Workers Should Know about Varicose Veins

ThinkstockPhotos 513880387By Michael Bardwil, M.D.

Varicose veins probably aren’t among the top medical concerns for most construction workers. But years of long hours standing on job sites can lead to the swollen, twisted and enlarged veins – particularly for people who have a genetic predisposition for the condition.

Experts regularly count construction workers among those most likely to develop varicose veins – right up there with postal workers, hair dressers, cashiers, nurses and miners. They all have jobs that involve standing all, or most of, the day, making it harder for veins to pump blood from workers’ feet back up to their hearts.

It’s a condition more common in women than in men – and often associated with post-pregnancy medical issues. But in the last 30 years, I’ve treated hundreds of workers – often men in construction – and others who perform difficult tasks such as heavy lifting and standing for long periods of time who have struggled with varicose veins. Today, such patients are more fortunate than their predecessors, as modern medicine is providing more effective and less invasive relief.

How to Spot Varicose Veins

Varicose veins most often occur in the legs and are usually green or blue. They appear twisted or bulging (as noted above) and people who have them deal with heaviness, achiness, burning, muscle cramping, tired or throbbing legs, swelling and itching. In some cases, over a long period of time, the pressure in legs can cause wounds around the ankles, which we call venous ulcers (or venous stasis ulcers).

New Treatments Available

Today, there’s a new trajectory of treatments available through chemical ablation. Varithena, released just over two years ago, moves past painful ligation and stripping -- where sufferers had to go under the knife (and general anesthesia) to address varicose veins. Now, patients can get on with their lives quickly.

In addition to patients being awake and not requiring a general anesthetic, patients walk out the procedure room with a much higher quality of life, and provides a way for them to fix their problem without missing much time at work – a boon to their paychecks and to their companies’ bottom lines. And so far, the most common side effect appears to be some rather minor leg pain and discomfort that goes away quickly.

Why Construction Workers Should be on Alert

These are the kinds of things that should appeal to construction workers when deciding on treatment. In another era, they might have been hesitant to have surgery and miss days of work to address varicose veins, only to let the problem get worse and worse and lead to venous ulcers.

Given the aging population and the large size of the Baby Boom generation – amazingly, about 40 percent of women and 20 percent of men in Houston, for example, will develop issues with their leg veins at some point in their lives. The innovative treatments available are a great piece of news for many Americans, but for construction workers forced to be on their feet each and every day – who also engage in physical tasks like lifting that can add to the problem – it’s extremely welcome news.

Michael F. Bardwil, MD, FACS, RVT, RVPI, is board certified in both general surgery and vascular surgery. He has more than 28 years of experience performing a wide range of surgical procedures, and for the last 13 years, has dedicated his efforts exclusively to the treatment of veins. Dr. Bardwil has taken his vast surgical expertise and combined it with state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology to form Texas Vein & Cosmetic Specialists.

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