By David Martin, RN
For Lesa Kagan, an audiologist and active mother of three (she takes care of her 95-year-old mom, 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. We have a very strong history of it,” Kagan says of her diagnosis of Chronic Venous Insufficiency, or CVI. She adds, “I’d asked my dermatologist, my internist, and my OB-GYN about what to do about my varicose veins. None of them had any strong recommendations, or were that knowledgeable about them.”
When one-way valves in leg veins fail, blood that is supposed to travel upward to be reoxygenated 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. These problems do not correct themselves; CVI is a progressive disease, which 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. 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. Also, flying and riding in a car for a long time was 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,” she says.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency Symptoms
Kagan’s symptoms were classic. With the calf muscle being the heartbeat of the lower body, Chronic Venous Insufficiency sufferers are often compelled to jump out of bed and walk around in the middle of the night, or 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.
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 to 20 years.
Advances in vein disease treatment have made the process of having your legs treated much less complicated and painful. Treatments can be done in less than an hour with local anesthetic, and with little pain or downtime. Patients are encouraged to walk and resume normal activity immediately following procedures.
Kagan says, “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!” she 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.”