SPEARFISH, S.D. (May 19, 2021) – Cheryl Foster of Sturgis has had varicose veins in her legs as long as she can remember. Her mother had them, too. The 60-year-old Sturgis resident was surprised, however, at how easy it was to get them removed. She underwent a procedure called radiofrequency vein ablation, which uses heat to collapse the bulging veins.
“Before I had the treatments, I couldn’t be on my feet very long before my legs would start hurting,” she said. She also credits vein ablation for relieving her recurring leg cramps and pain in her left knee.
A lot of people don’t realize there is a treatment for varicose veins that is safe, less invasive than vein stripping surgery and relatively painless, according to Nicholas Czosnyka, M.D., a Spearfish-based surgeon.
One of the central problems associated with varicose veins is the reflux, or backward flow of blood through the veins. Our veins – the vessels that return blood to the heart – have tiny check valves to keep blood flowing in the right direction. When the veins and valves become stretched, they lose their ability to stop blood from flowing backward.
Close to the skin, the veins appear to be dark purple or blue, sometimes bulging. Spider veins are similar but much smaller. Varicose veins deep in the tissue can be nearly invisible. They make your legs feel achy or heavy, and some patients experience burning, throbbing, cramping or swelling. In some cases, home care using compression socks, keeping legs elevated or getting more exercise, may relieve symptoms. For more serious cases, vein ablation is a good option.
In small to medium-sized veins, a different treatment using a foam is injected into the veins, which makes them shut, can relieve symptoms. In larger veins, the doctor inserts a thin tube into a vein and its heated tip causes the vein to collapse and seal shut.
In either case, there’s no loss of circulation because the blood will flow through other veins to return to the heart and lungs.
Cheryl Foster was surprised at how simple the procedure was. In two sessions last winter, she had vein ablation on both legs. With local anesthesia, she felt relatively little pain.
“It is a breeze, and it did help me a lot,” she said. “I’m so glad I did it.”