Varicose Vein Treatment: Left Leg Versus Right Leg

 Recently, we noticed something strange in several online varicose vein treatment discussions. People were asking why their varicose veins were much worse on one leg versus the other leg. In fact, some people reported have bad varicose veins in one leg but no visible evidence of varicose legs in the other!

It also seems that it is a bit more common to get more varicose veins on the left leg than on the right leg, or for the varicose veins to be worse on the left leg than the right leg. Even experienced doctors who specialize in varicose vein treatment were chiming in saying they had observed this in their own practice, especially in women. However, they also said the reason for this apparent trend was not clear, although one doctor alluded to the right iliac artery crossing on top of the left iliac artery which could cause compression on the left side and this could potentially cause pooling of blood on that side.


Inquiring minds had to know more and had to know WHY this would be! However, after several Google searches, as well as searches of the medial literature, very little information turned up. There was sparse anecdotal information but nothing in the way of a solid scientific explanation showing up in these searches!

Then the discovery of a forty-one year old letter published in 1976 in the prestigious journal, Lancet, shed a great deal of interesting light on the perplexing mystery! The letter was written by Dr. Maurice N. J. Frohn who worked at the Bethnal Green Hospital in London, England. He titled his letter, “Left Leg Varicose Veins and Deep Vein Thrombosis.”

The letter was published before the advent of desktop computers, digital printers, and fancy software so both the text and the diagrams in the letter were a bit cryptic compared to what we see in scientific letters and papers published online today. However, this made exploring this letter to solve the mystery all the more alluring! It was almost like exploring a cave with a flashlight and finding a gem!

Dr. Frohn’s letter explained why people, especially women, tend to need more extensive varicose vein treatment on their left leg versus their right leg. Deep venous blood clots were also occurring more in the left leg than the right leg. By the way, it can go the other way in some individuals but the overall trend seems to be that the left leg gets more varicose veins and more deep venous blood clots!

Dr. Frohn first explained some key anatomical issues to which some of his colleagues attributed the differences. It seems that the left common iliac vein sometimes gets compressed between the fourth lumbar vertebrae and the common iliac artery. Keep in mind that the common iliac vein feeds into the large femoral vein that runs into the thigh and all the other major veins of the leg. So, it would make sense that compression on the left iliac vein could indeed be a contributing factor as to why we see more need for varicose vein treatment in the left leg versus the right leg.

HOWEVER, Dr. Frohn had another major point to make that may very well be even more important to explain the puzzling mystery of leg leg versus right leg. One of his colleagues had suggested that straining while attempting to go to the bathroom might block blood and cause varicose veins to form. However, Dr. Frohn pointed out that straining should affect both sides equally. However it seemed his colleague may have been on the right track to think of a connection between what was going on in the colon and the formation of varicose veins.

It turns out that the portion of the colon right near the end before the rectum, called the sigmoid colon, or the pelvic colon, can become compacted with feces. Shaped like the Greek letter, sigma, the last portion before it turns abruptly to empty into the rectum is where gas accumulates (this is why we can fart without emptying out feces at the same time!). The portion of the sigma colon just before this “gas chamber” can get compacted with feces, because of the abrupt turn in the colon, especially on a diet of highly refined foods with little fiber. If this portion of the colon gets compacted, it can push on the LEFT iliac vein! When this happens deep venous blood clots can form, and over time, if this was a chronic condition, varicose veins would tend to form more in the left leg as a result!

Dr. Frohn put all of his surgical patients on a hospital food diet which included wholemeal and bran, and after he did this, never had anyone form post-operative blood clots in their veins! He stated this had been true for 1400 operations in three years and that other doctors who did the same got similar astounding results! So, it seems that DIET can indeed play a major role in the formation of varicose veins for yet another reason. Mystery solved! The moral of this exploration is to eat more fiber to prevent varicose veins.

There is one caveat to all of this. Sometimes it will look like you have varicose veins worse in one leg than the other, but when a duplex ultrasound scan is performed, you may find out that this is not true when you see into the deeper veins with this test. In fact, one vein doctor reported that sometimes a person may have a blood clot in the leg that looks like it doesn’t have any varicose veins while the other leg which has varicose veins has no blood clot! This is why you should always have your veins checked by a specialty vein clinic like Metro Vein Centers.

Just for fun, if you do schedule a check up with Metro Vein Centers, ask your technician and doctor if he or she has noticed a difference in the rate of varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis between the left and right leg. It won’t be a robust scientific survey but it will be interesting given the information above!


Dee Jones