We’re all familiar with setting New Year’s resolutions, but many of us know how hard it can be to follow through. Resolutions are well-intentioned but often vague. A different approach is setting a goal with defined steps. That way, if “motivation” falls short, you’ve got a plan to back you up. At Artemis Colorado – Vein & Cosmetic Center, we want people to address their vein issues so that they can live more comfortably. Many people live for years with distressing symptoms like varicose veins, chronic pain, swelling, fatigue, tenderness and aching in their legs. Some may not realize what the underlying issue is, but others know and simply haven’t done anything about it. We want to help people set and accomplish the goal of treating vein issues this year. See some before and after pictures in our gallery.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, around 40% of Americans have venous disease, the causes of which include family history, injury, pregnancy, and occupations that require long periods of sitting or standing. Symptoms typically appear in the legs and can include pain, swelling, fatigue, aching, discoloration, ulceration (in more advanced cases), and the familiar varicose or spider veins. Sometimes these symptoms are just annoying, but over time they can also decrease a person’s quality of life. If you’ve been suffering from any of these telltale signs, then resolve to do something about it! Fortunately, venous disease is treatable, and the earlier the intervention, then better, so add healthy veins to your list of New Years resolutions.
Below, we provide timing strategies and a general overview of vein treatment so that you can make this goal your own.
One key aspect of vein treatment that you need to know about is a three-month period during which patients wear compression stockings each day. We ask patients to do this because compression stockings can often resolve symptoms of venous disease. Stockings won’t reverse the disease, but many patients feel enough improvement in their symptoms that they don’t need further intervention. At Artemis, we prioritize the simplest, least-invasive approaches to treatment. During your initial consultation, we offer a free vein screening. We’ll use ultrasound technology to identify whether venous disease is present. We can then fit you for compression stockings, order them for you right in the office and have them shipped to your home.
The other reason for the compression stocking trial is that it’s required by many insurance companies as a prerequisite for authorizing treatment. So, planning for trial is the first step to setting your vein treatment goal.
Other non-invasive approaches for improving the health of your legs include maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or less, and regularly elevating the legs above the heart for periods of 20 minutes or more. Calf-pump muscle exercises – designed to improve muscle strength and ankle flexibility – can also be effective. To see what these exercises look like, check out the YouTube video by Dr. Lewis Sellers titled “Build Calf Strength for Better Vein Health, Calf Exercises.” These exercises strengthen the muscles in the legs and help the veins get the blood back up to the heart.
Like all of the body’s systems, your veins benefit when you make healthy food choices. Limiting sodium intake, for example, can help prevent the legs and ankles from swelling due to fluid retention in the cells, and also helps maintain healthy blood pressure throughout the body. This doesn’t mean limiting yourself to flavorless food, but rather trying to keep your daily sodium intake under a teaspoon (2300 mg), which is what the American Heart Association recommends.
Another smart dietary choice for vein health is consuming more fresh produce and unprocessed foods. Many of these foods – such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes and minimally processed whole grains – contain vitamins that support good circulation. Vitamin E, which helps prevent blood platelets from sticking together and to vein walls, is found in foods like spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, winter squashes and avocados. Produce high in vitamin C – such as bell peppers, kiwi, berries and citrus fruits – can strengthen blood vessel walls and fight inflammation. Of course, these vitamins support many other important functions in our bodies, so you’ll be helping more than your veins by increasing your intake.
Really, the answer to this is “any time” that best fits your life and schedule. However, there are a couple of times during the year that vein treatment can be more convenient and economical.
The first is now, during the winter months. Many patients prefer to begin the three-month compression stocking trial when it’s cold. While not hot or uncomfortable, compression stockings do add a light layer of extra warmth under pants, which can be a welcome addition during our Colorado winters. Beginning treatment in the winter also means that a patient will likely complete treatment before warm-weather activities really ramp up, leaving the patient free to enjoy a painless spring and summer.
Another time that can be ideal for beginning the compression stocking trial is later in the year, from around late July through early September. The reason for this is that, by the time patients complete the trial in the final quarter of the year, many will have met their insurance deductible. This means that insurance may cover most or all of their vein treatment.
If a patient’s three-month compression stocking trial does not sufficiently relieve their symptoms, then it’s time to consider a treatment called endovenous laser ablation. That sounds pretty technical, but it’s straightforward, minimally invasive and essentially painless. It’s an outpatient procedure that we handle right in our state-of-the art clinic.
Here’s a brief overview of what this procedure looks like:
First, we use ultrasound to identify the compromised veins and anesthetize the area. A small IV is inserted into the vein and a tiny laser fiber is passed through the IV inside the vein. The laser ablates the vein as the doctor pulls out the fiber.
At Artemis, we use the CoolTouchTM laser, which is one of the best in the industry. This instrument creates less heat than other lasers, meaning patients experience less post-procedure discomfort and bruising and a much faster recovery time. In fact, after the procedure, most patients simply go about the rest of their day. There is no scarring, the chances of complications are minimal, and afterward the patient typically experiences a significant reduction or complete elimination of symptoms and the appearance of varicose veins.
After treatment, we do ask that patients take it easy for a few days. Aftercare includes wearing compression stockings and avoiding strenuous exertion for one week. During this time, there may be mild bruising and slight discomfort, which can be alleviated with over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen. We ask patients to visit us one final time so that we can make sure all problems are resolved.
The whole process – initial consultation, three-month compression stocking trial, treatment, brief recovery and final visit – takes around four months. The first step toward achieving your vein treatment goal is simply scheduling that first appointment for a free vein screening (and we can schedule months in advance). Now is a great time to start the treatment process because you’ll be ready for a more active spring and summer. However, if you want to wait until later in the year to take advantage of meeting your insurance deductible, that is also a great strategy. We are always happy to discuss options with you and answer any questions that you have. Give us a call any time or use our contact form.
All of us at Artemis wish you and your family a happy and healthy New Year. We look forward to serving all of our patients in 2021.