Varicose Veins, a man thing too

More men are seeking treatment for varicose veins—and not for cosmetic reasons.Andres Garcia, 29, of Chicago is among them. “I first thought: Older ladies get this. Why is this happening to me?” Watch the video to learn more.

For years, Andres Garcia, a gas station cashier, endured the achiness, heaviness and eventual leg swelling at the end of his 8-hour shift, most of which he worked standing.

“I would feel my legs throbbing. I wouldn’t really walk, it was more like I was dragging my legs,” Garcia described. It wasn’t until the disease progressed – first as bulging veins and then as open wounds around his ankles – that he sought medical attention.

“Left untreated, varicose veins can lead to venous insufficiency and ulcerations of the skin, which are hard to heal and costly,” said Dr. Heather Hall, director of the Vascular Institute of Chicago at Weiss Memorial Hospital.

“I felt alone. I didn’t have another guy to talk to,” Garcia added. “It’s a physical issue as well as an emotional one.” He stopped socializing with many of his friends and family, and stopped playing sports. “It got to the point where it was painful to wear shoes. I thought: I can’t live like this,” he said.

An estimated 23 percent of adults in the U.S. have varicose veins, according to the American Heart Association. The condition is more common in women, but men experience it too.

A recent study in the American Heart Association’s Circulation speaks to the prevalence and cost of the potentially chronic conditions. Researchers report thatAmericans lose 2 million workdays and pay an estimated $3 billion per year to treat chronic venous ulcerations.

“There’s usually a strong hereditary factor,” Dr. Hall said, adding that when both parents have varicose veins, there’s a 90 percent chance their offspring will develop the condition as well. With one parent, there’s a 40-50 percent likelihood. If neither parent has it, there’s still a 20-30 percent chance of getting the chronic condition. Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Standing occupations
  • Pregnancy

Garcia noted that one of his grandmothers had varicose veins, but neither of his parents. In addition to genetics, he attributes his standing occupation as the main contributor to developing the disease, especially at such an early age.

Garcia was glad a minimally invasive procedure could correct his condition. Dr. Hall performed a phlebectomy, when a vein is extracted with a crochet-hook-like device through two-millimeter incisions.

“We seal the dysfunctional vein that runs up the leg, then we remove the large visible varicose veins,” Dr. Hall explained. Patients recover from the outpatient procedure within a few days.

With his right leg now fully healed, Garcia plans to get the same procedure done on this left leg.

“I feel awesome,” Garcia said. “I can manage my leg now. I’m eating better too. As a result, I’m more active.”

Garcia, now transitioning careers as he studies to be a massage therapist, advises men to address the issue of varicose veins sooner rather than later. “You need to keep up with yourself and don’t wait to take action.”

View the story on ABC Channel 7 News.