By David Martin, RN, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
For this active mother of three who is also an audiologist, helps take care of her 93-year-old mother, volunteers with several organizations and plays ALTA tennis, loving her legs is a new thing.
“I have had problems with my legs since I was in my 20s. Varicose veins run in my family. Both of my sisters have them, and my mother has them. We have a very strong history of it,” says Lesa Kagan of her diagnosis of chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI.
“I’d asked my dermatologist, internist and OB/GYN about what to do about my varicose veins. None of them had any strong recommendations or were that knowledgeable about them,” she recalls. “Fortunately, a friend who has kids about the same ages as mine had been treated by a VeinInnovations physician and recommended VeinInnovations to me.”
When one-way valves in leg veins fail, blood that is supposed to travel upward to be re-oxygenated by the heart and lungs flows backward instead. This can cause the blood to pool and create pressure in the legs, extending veins and causing a host of problems, including pain and swelling that become worse over time. These problems do not correct themselves; CVI is a progressive disease that develops most often due to heredity, pregnancy, lifestyle (standing or sitting for long periods of time) or injury.
“It makes sense that I would have tired and achy legs,” Kegan says. “I am up and down a lot at work but on my feet a good bit. When I was active — playing tennis — my legs would be sore and tired the next day. Flying and riding in a car for a long time was also a problem. I always felt as though my legs needed to move. They ached. I just felt as though I needed to walk around more.”
Kegan’s symptoms were classic. With the calf muscle being the heartbeat of the lower body, CVI sufferers are often compelled to jump out of bed and walk around in the middle of the night, or they may need to get up during a flight and move around to relieve the pain and get the blood traveling in the right direction. Many patients complain of leg pain, thinking they have arthritis or muscle cramps, when in fact their problem is CVI.
It’s estimated that by the time we are in our 50s, about half of all adults have some degree of CVI, though women are more likely to be affected than men during their 20s, 30s and 40s. Not all varicose and spider veins are caused by CVI, some varicose and spider veins are cosmetic issues and do not cause pain, but the only way to know whether your varicose and spider veins are cosmetic or not is to have an ultrasound done of your legs, to check blood flow for venous insufficiency.
About 30 million people in America suffer from CVI, yet many physicians don’t know to tell patients that varicose veins and spider veins are oftentimes much more than a cosmetic problem. This is due to the relative newness of in-office, minimally invasive treatments, which were not available until the last 15 years or so after many of today’s physicians were out of medical school.
CVI affects quality of life in many ways, causing millions of people to suffer symptoms similar to those of restless leg syndrome, as well as spider veins, bulging varicose veins, itching and tingling legs, cramping and swollen feet and ankles. If the disease is not treated, symptoms and consequences will progress, having further negative effects on overall health.
Advances in vein disease treatment have made the process of getting legs treated far easier and much less complicated and painful than it was in the past. Treatments can be done in less than an hour with local anesthetic and with virtually no pain or downtime. Patients are encouraged to walk and resume normal activity immediately following procedures, though serious athletes are encouraged to wait a week or 10 days before returning to vigorous running, lifting or play. Beyond that, the only other restriction is to avoid hot baths or hot tubs for a few days after treatment.
Will having treatment improve your tennis game? “Nothing is standing in my way now that I have had my legs done. My life is better. I would like to say my tennis game is way better!” Kegan laughs. “I am definitely less tired. I have always been a runner on the court. Now I am more energetic, and I definitely feel better in my skirt because my legs look better.”
The other change, Kegan adds, is that the experience has made her want to tell others about VeinInnovations. “I’ve had so many friends who know they need treatment ask me about it,” she says. “I tell them it is nice to have a solution to offer and many are amazed to find out that insurance covers treatment. I tell them not to wait, that I wish I had sought treatment earlier and that I would definitely go back to VeinInnovations if I needed treatment again. I also tell them that this summer, I am going to love wearing dresses and skirts — and no hose!”
SYMPTOMS OF VEIN DISEASE
• Varicose veins
• Spider veins
• Restless legs
• Swollen legs and ankles