Lurking in the Legs: Handling Varicose Vein Issues
Roscoe resident Tom Adland thought his varicose veins would permanently sideline him from everyday life. Leg pain started bothering him about 15 years ago. He used to be a jogger, and he and his wife, Lynn, played tennis and racquetball and rode bicycles together.
Many people often think nothing can be done about their leg pain issues. Surprisingly, most individuals don’t realize their leg pain is actually caused by varicose veins.
Varicose veins are swollen, unattractive leg veins that form when your veins are not properly returning blood from the legs back to the heart. They can cause you to suffer from significant discomfort. About 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from some type of vein problem, and varicose veins affect half of people 50 years and older, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The main cause of developing varicose veins is simply genetics, and this was the reason for Tom’s vein issues. Other causes include pregnancy, age, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, or any condition that leads to excessive pressure on the legs or abdomen.
The presence of varicose veins can cause achy legs, restless legs (especially at night), swelling, a heavy feeling in the legs, throbbing, and difficulty standing or sitting for long periods of time. Lack of exercise can have adverse effects on your veins and lead to worsening symptoms.
So, what if you’re like Tom, living an active lifestyle, but are still suffering from consistent leg pain and discomfort? You can lessen varicose vein symptoms by:
– Maintaining a healthy weight with regular exercise to promote healthy circulation and reducing strain on veins
– Consuming a well-balanced, low-salt diet to reduce high blood pressure and the strain on veins
– Elevating legs while at rest to prevent blood from pooling in the calves and ankles
– Avoiding sitting and standing for long periods of time. Prop up your feet during prolonged sitting. Try calf raises, squats and shifting your standing position as often as possible.
– Walking around at least once every 30 minutes
– Wearing appropriate clothing to improve circulation. This includes compression stockings, appropriate footwear with cushioned socks or insoles and/or wearing loose-fitting clothing.
– Icing swollen legs, or using a hot compress if ice isn’t helpful
Unfortunately, in Tom’s case, his symptoms continued to worsen. He got to the point where it would hurt just to sit. The now-68-year-old underwent three vein-stripping procedures, but the varicose veins came back and were worse than before.
The pain got so bad that walking a one-block distance with Lynn to a restaurant or shop was difficult. It hurt to extend his stride and try to keep pace.
People often attribute varicose veins and the associated symptoms to being part of the normal aging process, but, left untreated, symptoms worsen: swelling, pain, purplish discoloration, cellulitis, scar tissue, ulcers, bleeding varicose veins, and blood clots.
The good news is there are minimally invasive treatments available to remove varicose veins — all with minimal discomfort, little downtime, and no scarring. Gone are the old-school treatments of vein stripping and open surgery. Procedures are so much simpler that most people typically return to their normal activities the same day.
Tom’s varicose veins were easily closed with Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA), an outpatient treatment that resolved the varicose veins. He never had any pain with the laser treatments, which were a major change from the leg-stripping procedures of old. Recovery also was painless.
Today, he can keep pace with anyone and in less than a year, he shed more than 75 pounds. His ability to exercise and focus on his health also improved with the leg vein treatment.
Like Tom, most people who undergo EVLA often describe their legs feeling lighter and younger, not experiencing swelling or aching, and lamenting that they wish they would have sought treatment sooner.
With EVLA treatments now readily available, people should no longer be suffering from leg pain issues. Tom had a history of prior surgical stripping and blood clots. This doesn’t affect the scope of treatment. In fact, the more complex and advanced the varicose vein disease, the more dramatic the results will be. •
BY DR. RIMAS GILVYDIS
Dr. Rimas Gilvydis is a board-certified interventional radiologist with Northern Illinois Vein Clinic. He is one of the first specialists in the country to treat vein disease with minimally invasive techniques. He has nearly two decades of experience and more than 20,000 successful procedures to his credit.