Health Check: Treating Varicose Veins

They're not pretty and they can be painful. But now there's good news for the millions of people who have varicose veins. A minimally invasive procedure has replaced a painful surgery - once used to get rid of them. Serese Cole explains in this month's Health Check report.

Even a casual stroll can be painful for Tammy Barker.

Varicose Veins are the reason why. She got the first one after her first child, another with her second. At first she was just worried about how it looked.

Tammy Baker, "It was not pretty you know, you didn't wear shorts, and then eventually it got to be that my legs started to hurt."

Dr. Jeffrey Himmelberg told Tammy about an the venous closure procedure.

Doctors place a small catheter through the vein where the valves aren't working properly, numb the vein wall, then apply energy into the catheter - which creates heat. That heat damages the lining of the blood vessel wall - shrinking and healing the vein.

"It's minimal pain, we treat them in 15 minutes maybe 20 minutes and then an hour later, they're walking out the door- right back to their life, " said Dr. Himmelberg, an Intervenational Radiologist at Fremont Area Medical Center.

Patients can begin to feel and see a difference in a week.

Serese Cole, "What you won't see in the doctor's waiting room are men. Dr. Himmelberg says only 15 percent of his patients are male. That's because most men tend to wait until the condition gets bad."

But he says waiting too long can lead to chronic swelling, discoloration - even skin ulcers.

Tammy's not waiting. She just had one leg treated and is looking forward to being healed - completely....

"I'll be able to be on the elliptical longer and not feel like my legs are so tired, " Barker said.

And enjoy longer walks with her husband.

With no side affects or scarring, chances are Tammy will be happy with the results. Dr. Himmelberg says 98-percent of the people who have this treatment still report success - five years later.

So who is most at risk for getting varicose veins? The older we get, the more common it becomes. People with a family history of varicose veins and women - especially those who have had children - are more at risk, too.

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