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Around Our Town: Wyoming Medical Center

Loving Your Legs

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10/01/2012 - By Mel Schwartz

WMC Community Development

While there are a few ways to describe our legs— stems, gams and the ever-loathed "sticks"—there is only one word for those large, bluish veins that often mar the surface of our lower half: varicose.

Caused by heredity, weight gain or just the wear-and-tear of age, varicose veins begin as deceptively discreet skin abnormalities and become rather painful if left untreated, often resulting in serious health complications that require surgical procedures. These complications include pain after prolonged standing or sitting; skin ulcers near the ankle; numbness in the leg; burning, throbbing, cramping and swelling of the lower leg; and itching around the site of the varicose vein.

"Varicose veins are not just a cosmetic nuisance," said Dr. Charles Bowkley III, interventional radiologist at Outpatient Radiology in Casper. "They are a serious medical condition that causes significant symptoms leading to a decrease not only in self-esteem but also in quality of life."

And while we have a greater chance of developing this condition as we age, varicose veins do not discriminate among the sexes. Twenty to 40 percent of women and 15 to 20 percent of men suffer from this medical condition. In response, more people are getting the relief they need through advanced medicine that allows for relatively painless, nonsurgical treatment.

Smoothing out your stems

One of the symptoms of varicose veins is the protruding or bulging blood vessel, an often painful side effect caused by damaged, weakened valves inside the broken vein. These valves typically allow blood flow in one direction; once broken, however, they can lead to pooling of blood and enlargement of the vein, resulting in a venous varicosity, meaning swollen and dilated.

Treatment offered by Outpatient Radiology experts is both minimally invasive and nonsurgical. Within the privacy of a comfortable setting, the majority of patients opt for laser treatment that provides the latest technology with a quick recovery time.

"We are able to treat the entire vein from the inside out, with little discomfort and alteration of the patient's lifestyle," said Dr. Bowkley. "We use minimally invasive techniques with imaging guidance to treat our patients, making general anesthesia and large incisions unnecessary. The benefits are numerous, including short recovery time, nominal cost and improved quality of life."

Laser therapy involves the insertion of an incredibly small tube—roughly the size of a ballpoint pen tip—into the leg, which has been numbed with a local anesthetic. A tiny fiber is advanced through the tube by laser, heating the vein. This leads to closure of the offending vein, which then disappears.

"I recently had the procedure done, and it was painless. The doctor and nurse—all of the staff, really—made me feel at ease and relaxed. Before I knew it, it was over and I was on my way home," Bonnie Rowland, laser therapy patient, Outpatient Radiology.

Keeping your gams great

Dr. Bowkley says that recurrence is rare and is typically due to intolerance of compression hose. He notes that his patients experience quicker recovery times when they follow a few specific steps: particularly the temporary use of compression hose and short-term avoidance of certain activities.

"The most important thing to remember is that laser treatment is only half of the therapy," said Dr. Bowkley. "The other half requires that the patient wear their compression hose during the recovery period following the procedure and resume healthy activities such as walking, gently exercising and eating healthy."

If you currently suffer from varicose veins and would like more information or to schedule an initial consultation, please call the Outpatient Radiology experts at (307) 232-5012. The initial consultation is free, and the imaging and procedure will be scheduled for a later date if deemed clinically necessary.

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