Varicose vein treatments gives patient ‘two new legs’

Tom Adland thought his varicose vein issues would permanently sideline him from everyday life. But then he met Dr. Rimas Gilvydis and his team.

 

Adland’s varicose veins started bothering him about 15 years ago. Since that time, the now-68-year-old underwent three vein-stripping procedures.

 

“It was just to no avail,” he recalled. “They came back and were worse, so I just kind of threw up my hands.”

 

Genetics play a part in his condition, as two of his brothers also sought treatment for varicose veins. And while exercise can help decrease the symptoms from varicose veins (Adland used to be a jogger, and he and his wife, Lynn, played tennis and racquetball and rode bicycles together), even those types of activities became too painful. It hurt just to sit, he said.

 

Things got so bad that walking a one-block distance with Lynn to a restaurant or shop was difficult. “She would get to the end of the block, and I’d only be halfway there. It hurt to extend my stride and try to keep pace. People got tired of waiting on me.”

 

Lynn heard about Dr. Rimas Gilvydis from patients who had reported great results with minimally invasive laser treatments that are now available. So Adland made an appointment.

 

“During my consultation, I started to describe to Dr. Gilvydis how my legs hurt and how they limited my lifestyle. He stopped me halfway through and said, ‘We’re going to solve that. We’re going to give you two new legs.’ And by golly, he did it.”

 

Dr. Gilvydis said pain and swelling are among the most common symptoms of varicose veins, and those symptoms are caused by venous stasis – old, stagnant blood pooling and collecting in the legs, which worsens as the day goes on. Venous stasis is caused by permanently damaged valves in the legs. Patients often attribute this and its symptoms to being part of the normal aging process, but, left untreated, symptoms worsen: swelling, pain, purplish discoloration, cellulitis, scar tissue, ulcers, bleeding varicose veins and blood clots.

 

Varicose veins can be easily closed with Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) in an outpatient setting. Once treated, the venous stasis resolved, Dr. Gilvydis said.

 

Adland said he never had any pain with the laser treatments, a major change from the leg-stripping procedures of old. “There was an occasional pinch, but Dr. Gilvydis was always good about warning me.”

 

Recovery was also painless, and Adland was pleased that the compression stockings he wore post-treatment had also improved in design through the years.

 

Adland grew especially fond of the clinic’s staff during his treatment appointments. “They go out of the way to make sure everything works for you. They’re great people.”

 

He connected to the staff so well, he used his experience working in aerospace to help ease an employee’s fear of flying. He appreciated that staff members were always flexible in making appointments that fit with his work schedule.

 

The clinic’s comprehensive vein care begins with patient education, Dr. Gilvydis noted. And because EVLA treatment is very standardized, the staff can create a comfortable environment in the treatment rooms: Patients can select the type of music they listen to; they have their own ultrasound monitor, which allows them to see the work being done; and because only local anesthesia is used, Dr. Gilvydis and his team are able to talk with patients throughout the entire procedure.

 

“We want every patient to understand what varicose veins are, how they are affecting their health and how we can help them,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “The more our patients are educated about varicose veins and their treatment, the less anxiety they are likely to experience.”

 

Today, Adland can proudly “keep pace with anyone.” In less than a year, he has shed more than 75 pounds, and his ability to exercise and focus on his health has improved with the leg vein treatment.

 

“I can’t say enough good things,” Adland said of his experience. “I’ve recommended the office to anybody who is willing to engage in a discussion about varicose veins. You can’t ask for a better specialist to work with.”

 

As for Adland’s “two new legs,” Dr. Gilvydis said patients often describe their legs feeling lighter and younger, not experiencing swelling or aching, and lamenting that they wish they would have sought treatment sooner.

 

“I am pleased with every single patient we treat, whether the varicose veins are mild, moderate or severe,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “Having specialized in EVLA over the past 14 years, there are no patients that we can’t treat. Tom presented with a history of prior surgical stripping and blood clots. This doesn’t affect our scope of treatment. In fact, the more complex and advanced the varicose vein disease, the more I would like to treat patients, as their results can be very dramatic.”

Summer fun back on the agenda after leg vein treatment

Until this year, Carla Nipps wouldn’t wear shorts or a swimsuit during the summer months because she was embarrassed by her legs.
Varicose veins started showing more prominently in her legs after she had her first child at age 22. Now 57, Carla said the problem worsened during the past three decades, particularly because her job involves a lot of standing.

Doctors initially told Carla that nothing could be done to fix the issue. A dermatologist gave her knee-high support nylons to wear, but a permanent solution still seemed out of reach.

“My legs were so far gone, they would be a challenge for anybody,” she said.

On a whim, she called to make an appointment with Dr. Rimas Gilvydis in the parking lot of that dermatologist office. Carla had low expectations for the consultation: “My legs were disgusting. I looked like I was 100 years old.”

Dr. Gilvydis told Carla she had extensive varicose vein disease in both legs, worse in the right leg, that were treatable with catheter based laser treatments, details she was never told at previous doctor visits.

“She came to us with very prominent varicose veins that have been bothering her for decades,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “We see many people like Carla who are hesitant to come in for treatment because they either don’t know about it, think that insurance doesn’t cover it, or believe that their varicose veins are just cosmetic.”

Carla had five laser procedures done during a week in April 2017 and said, “now her legs are perfect.”

She felt comfortable during her procedures in part because the staff was so friendly and professional. They talked her through the process. Certain areas of her legs were more painful to treat than others, but not so painful that it prevented her from continuing the process.

Her sister accompanied her to the appointments, and they headed to go shopping and the park district path to walk for about three miles after each procedure. Walking helps with circulation, and Carla was diligent about the exercise. She felt a bit of pain after the work was done, but the walking helped.

Dr. Gilvydis stressed the importance of patients following post-laser instructions. He encourages lots of walking, elevating the legs when possible and returning to work, again, if possible. Patients need to wear compression stockings and avoid exercise and lifting more than 40 pounds for two weeks post-procedure. But after the two weeks, there are no more restrictions.

Carla saw immediate results after treatment, to the point where she wishes she would have inquired about the process sooner.

  

“My legs were so bad for so long. They would swell up at night after work, and there was a lot of pain. But I was so used to it for all those years,” Carla recalled. “Now, I come home from work, and my ankles are skinny – the size they’re supposed to be.”

This summer, Carla bought four pairs of shorts and didn’t shy away from wearing a swimsuit at her family’s pool. She’s even planning to head to the Wisconsin Dells with her family around Thanksgiving, a trip she had avoided because of water park activities.

“I would sweat my butt off wearing pants all the time. This is the first year I wore shorts outside in public,” Carla said. “I was in the pool all summer long, but was still careful in the sun so it didn’t stain my bruises.”

Her kids were also amazed by the improvements. Carla said they always encouraged her to wear shorts but didn’t realize how bad the problems were until she went in for treatment.

Carla still has some bruising in her legs, but that will continue to clear up over time. She was so pleased with the process that she’ll return to see Dr. Gilvydis in October to pay out of pocket to have work done on some spider veins.

“My staff and I love hearing these types of stories from patients,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “It feels great knowing that the work we do affects so many of our patients in such a positive and uplifting way.”