let’s get physical

The better part of my childhood was spent cross-legged. I’d sit with my legs crossed during bus rides and in front of the computer during my “hey, ma, look: I’m a web designer!” years. More often than not, I’d find one of my legs tucked comfortably underneath me.

When I began my plight into the working world, I encountered this strange ping, pang feeling in my legs. It felt as if something was dancing inside my veins, swimming throughout my legs. Due to a lack of health insurance after university, I was unable to visit a doctor to begin to decipher this feeling without swallowing an obscenely large medical expense. Instead, the Internet became my resource and I tried several home remedies to relieve the tension in my legs. Not to get political, but thanks be to Obama on behalf of everyone now under 26 years old who graduates college without any perspective health insurance: consider yourself lucky.

When I finally found my first “big girl job,” health insurance became my new best friend. After several trips to a local doctor, it was determined that I was a victim of the big, bad Varicose Vein (rrrrroar!). Generally, this is something that mostly concerns elderly patients, but can occur in young adults depending on the beauty of their circulation past. So, kids, if this note isn’t enough to convince you: do not sit cross-legged even if it is the most comfortable feeling in the world. (Ooh, I miss it.)

Prior to my treatment, I spent a considerable amount of time researching forums and web sites online to mentally prepare myself. However, much to my dismay, little-to-no real life experiences were shared. Many of my friends and coworkers seemed genuinely curious after my treatment since they themselves were secretly suffering similar symptoms as I did (which they felt comfortable enough to share after realizing that it was indeed a problem), so if you’re in a similar boat, this one’s for you. If not, I’ll be a considerate person and spare you with being rudely confronted with the details.

Proceed with caution: this is not a particularly glamorous story nor my proudest moment.

Whoa, Sarah — wait a minute. Aren’t you in your twenties? Wow! You’re messed up.

This was my exact reaction. I thought something was tremendously wrong with me. I was paranoid and, quite honestly, a bit of a hypochondriac. In actuality, varicose veins are not life-threatening — they’re just, in most cases, unsightly and uncomfortable. No worries — your leg isn’t going to turn black and require amputation.

How did you select a doctor? There’s so many!

Chances are, if you search for a doctor in your area that provides treatment for varicose veins, many options will be available. I’d be lying if I pretended to not have experienced a bump in the road towards my journey to finding the “right doctor” for me. I originally visited a doctor whose primary concerns were clearly based on aesthetics and not health concerns. That’s okay, too, as for most people, your concern may be merely cosmetic. Be sure to get to know your doctor. If you’re comfortable with them, that’s all that matters aside from whether or not they’re a reputable practice. If you live in the Iowa area, I’d be happy to chit-chat about this further. Feel free to contact me.

Compression stockings. For real? My grandma wears these. Yikes!

If you’re seeking treatment, the first step that you will experience will likely be compression stockings. That is, ugly little stockings customized for you. Depending on the compression that you’re prescribed, they are difficult to get on and off by yourself. I had to wear thigh-length stockings during my waking hours for three entire months. I’d like to take a brief moment to thank my boyfriend for this terribly unsexy time in my life. In the beginning few weeks, he would have to help me put them on and remove them at night. That’s dedication right there.

After using stockings for a certain period of time, your symptoms may be relieved and this may even be your treatment for several years. Stockings on during discomfort, stockings off. After using them properly for a month, I thought my problems were cured! My legs felt wonderful. Unfortunately, this didn’t last.

What is your experience with the treatments available? How much does it hurt? I know it hurts!

There’s a wide array of treatment options available and, of course, your doctor will tailor your procedures to your specific need should you require further treatment. For me, I had what’s called endovenus laser therapy on my right leg and on my left leg, followed up with an ambulatory phlebectomy on my right leg. You’re probably thinking: all right, that sounds dangerous and possibly illegal. To put it frankly, laser therapy involves inserting a laser into your vein and closing the varicose vein off. An ambulatory phlebectomy removes the unsightly vein from your leg. You’re awake for both procedures. Yes, I said “awake.” Calm, calm, caaaaalm down: it’s worse than it sounds. This concern in itself was something I couldn’t find a personal account of. Perhaps this because no one wants to write something so nitty gritty and personal that’s readily available for everyone to openly read?

Endovenous Laser Therapy:

To say that I was seriously worried about the pain during this procedure is the understatement of the century. I was terrified. I spent hours punching “endovenous laser therapy – degree of pain” into fifty different search engines. I watched videos of the procedure being completed. Um, my advice? Definitely don’t do that. Don’t go there. Under any circumstances whatsoever. Do not watch videos.

My concerns were pioneered by the doctors at my chosen clinic being wonderfully upfront: they told me that many people find this procedure to be uncomfortable. Uncomfortable? What did he mean by uncomfortable? Uncomfortably unbearable? As none of the doctors had actually underwent the procedure themselves, they could only guesstimate answers for my irrational concerns. I went into the procedure room armed with medicine to calm my nerves (because it’s important to note that you don’t go into these procedures completely unprepared), but when the doctor said: “Okay, this is the part,” I almost lost my cool. I braced for impact and, to my surprise, felt almost nothing! All of this serious worry and the replaying of the flinching videos in my head for nothing. It was am immense weight off my shoulders and I’m happy to report that my left leg’s procedure went just as easy, as well. To those YouTube videos out there: in your face!

Ambulatory Phlebectomy:

To recap, this procedure involves removing veins from your leg. For me, they did this after the laser therapy. Was it absolutely necessary? No. It was hoped that the vein disappeared by itself after the first treatment, but it didn’t. I had already satisfied my insurance deductible, so why not? For many people, this might be the only surgery that is proposed. Was it painful? Yes. I didn’t care for it. Was it unbearble? No, but I’m happy it’s over with. I couldn’t imagine having this done on both of my legs, so my suggestion would be to ask if laser therapy is an option before crossing this bridge. But, if this is what’s recommended, it’s not absolutely horrible. It’s just not how I’d enjoy spending 45 minutes of my life again.

Psst: I have some questions that I’m too shy to ask in public. Can I write you?

Of course – be my guest!

* Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and the above is based on my own personal experience. Consult your physician with any real concerns.

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