Now that the holiday season is winding down, it’s time again to reflect on the past year and look forward as we begin 2020. Of course, a common question among friends and family is “Are you making any resolutions this year?” Many people plan to “get healthy,” which includes losing weight, exercising, and eating better. These are admirable goals, but people have varying success depending on their willpower and goal-setting abilities. However, there is an area of wellness less frequently considered, but which is relatively easy to do something about: vein health.
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.
Step one is to make an appointment at a vein clinic to meet with a phlebologist, a doctor specializing in veins. At Artemis, you are welcome to call anytime to discuss symptoms over the phone, and we offer free vein screenings. A vein screening is a painless procedure during which we use ultrasound to peek at what’s going on underneath the surface. Sometimes patients have visible varicose veins, but often a person experiences the painful symptoms of venous disease without there being anything obvious on the surface.
If the doctor diagnoses venous disease, the next step is to outline a treatment plan unique to the patient’s needs. This is one of our specialties at Artemis. While there are standard protocols involved in the treatment of venous disease, we always tailor our approach to the individual. Treatment begins by asking the patient to wear compression stockings for three months (insurance carriers also typically require this trial before authorizing payment for a procedure). This approach is non-invasive and easy to carry out. Compression stockings are often so effective at relieving symptoms that patients don’t need any further intervention, and it’s also something that you can try on your own! No prescription is necessary, though we recommend first speaking to a personal physician or vein specialist to discuss your particular situation. The stockings are available at pharmacies, sports equipment stores, or online, and come in all kinds of colors and styles. A starting pressure to try is 12 to 18 mmHg, but if you come in we can help you figure out the right fit, order them for you, and show you how to use them.
If the three-month compression stocking trial does not sufficiently relieve symptoms, then it’s time to consider a minimally invasive, essentially painless procedure called endovenous laser ablation. Insurance often covers part or all of this treatment, making it an accessible and affordable option for most. Laser ablation takes place in an outpatient setting and patients are back on their feet the same day. Here’s an idea of what this procedure looks like:
First, the specialist uses ultrasound to identify the compromised veins. The area to be treated is then anesthetized. A small, hollow needle is inserted into the vein and a tiny laser fiber is then inserted through the needle along the length of the vein. The laser ablates the vein as the doctor pulls out the fiber.
At Artemis, we use the CoolTouchTM laser, which is the best in the industry. As the name implies, this instrument creates less heat than other lasers, which means patients experience less post-procedure discomfort and bruising, and a faster recovery time. In fact, after the procedure, most patients simply go about the rest of their day. There is virtually no scarring, there is little likelihood of complications, and it typically results in the reduction or elimination of symptoms and varicose veins.
After treatment, we do ask patients to take it easy for a few days. Aftercare includes wearing compression stockings and avoiding strenuous exertion for one week, which gives the body time to recover. During this time, there may be mild bruising and slight discomfort that can be alleviated with over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen.
Note: Because of the three month compression stocking trial, it’s ideal to start this whole process earlier in the year. Whether compression stockings alone relieve your symptoms or it’s necessary to proceed with the laser ablation, winter is a great time to take care of your veins and symptoms in preparation for a more active summer.
Most New Year’s resolutions require you to make a commitment and come up with your own plan to follow through. Tackling something like healthy veins or venous disease, though, is refreshingly simple because it involves taking only a few well-tested steps. And, at Artemis, you’ll have a top notch vein care team with you throughout the process. Of course, it requires that you decide to start, but the benefits are well worth it.
If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of venous disease, we hope you’ll resolve to do something about it this year and make 2020 pain free and focus on healthy veins. Whether you’re ready to begin or aren’t quite sure and just want to chat about it with someone, feel free to call anytime or contact us through our contact form. We’re ready to support you every step of the way.