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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Not in Vein

Winter 2013

Not in Vein

By: Meghan Rossbach
Date: February 4, 2013

Varicose vein procedure provides relief for patients


Close up of feet of Caucasian patient walking along beach
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Svetlana Vidensky, a 50-year-old research technician, noticed a varicose vein on her leg three years ago. At first, she was more concerned about the appearance of the bulging vein. But soon, she started experiencing symptoms—most likely caused by long hours spent on her feet in the research lab. “By the end of the day, my legs would be throbbing,” she says. “I would go home and prop them up for at least a half hour before going about my evening routine.”

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. They develop when valves in the veins that pump blood toward the heart stop working. Blood pools in the veins, and causes them to dilate and appear larger. When blood pools in the lower legs, it can cause feelings of heaviness, fatigue, aching, and sometimes even throbbing, in the legs.

“Symptoms are not life-threatening; however, over time, they can worsen and develop into superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT),” says Jennifer Heller, M.D., vascular surgeon and director of the Johns Hopkins Vein Center. “That’s why it’s important to see a vascular surgeon when your symptoms become more frequent.”

Seeking Treatment

Vidensky didn’t seek treatment at first, but she noticed that long flights to visit family in Russia enhanced her symptoms.

“By the end of the flight, my legs would be so swollen and tired that it was uncomfortable to walk,” she says. “I didn’t want my veins to prevent me from visiting my family. That’s when I decided to make an appointment with Dr. Heller.”

Vidensky’s first appointment with the Johns Hopkins Vein Center was in 2009. Dr. Heller diagnosed her with a mild case of varicose veins, which could be treated with compression stockings. The stockings relieved her symptoms significantly, but as time went on, the varicose veins started to “deteriorate visually” and bulge more. Vidensky found herself back in Dr. Heller’s office last fall seeking further treatment.

“We first try to treat varicose veins in nonsurgical ways, such as compression stockings,” says Dr. Heller. “But when that doesn’t work, we opt for surgical treatment to provide relief and prevent future vascular problems.”

Dr. Heller performed a VNUS closure procedure on Vidensky, where she used a thin catheter to deliver laser heat and collapse the vein. The minimally invasive technique is a common treatment for varicose veins. Most patients see results almost immediately and are back to their daily activities within one to two days after the procedure.

A World of Difference

Now six months post-op, Vidensky is able to stand for long hours in the research lab without feeling overly tired or achy. While she still wears compression stockings at night as a precaution, she is happy with the results.

“My legs looked a lot better within days of the procedure, and my symptoms have improved significantly,” Vidensky says.

They’ve improved so much that she recently took a long flight to Hawaii for Thanksgiving. “That trip prepared me for my next visit home to Russia,” she says. “I’m looking forward to being able to travel without having to worry about swollen, tired legs.”

When Should I Seek Treatment?

According to Dr. Heller, it’s important to know that just because you have varicose veins, doesn’t mean you need surgical intervention. Varicose veins can be treated with compression stockings or lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly and not sitting or standing for long periods of time.

You should seek medical advice when varicose veins cause:

  • Pain
  • Blood clots
  • Skin ulcers

"At the Johns Hopkins Vein Center, our vascular surgeons provide a unique perspective on the diagnosis and treatment of varicose veins,” says Dr. Heller.“We are specially trained to recognize the complexities of vascular disease, and are equipped to treat you appropriately and safely."

To hear Dr. Heller discuss other treatments for varicose veins, visit hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/vein_centers.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 410-550-VEIN (8346).

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