December 17, 2017

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Vanishing Veins: Dr. Katie Reigstad on Providing a Surgical Solution for Varicose Veins

Varicose veins aren’t pretty but for many of us, they’re a fact of life. Those unsightly blue veins are more common than you may have realized, with nearly 1/3 of Americans developing them throughout their lives. Unfortunately, varicose veins can be more than just a cosmetic concern. Extreme pain, swelling, itching, and achy legs have all been connected to those odd-looking veins invading your legs.

But what can you do about them? Do you have to live with the pain? Luckily, according to ACMC Vascular Surgeon, Dr. Katie Reigstad, the answer is no! 

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are typically found near the side or back of the calf. Once they appear, varicose veins are permanent unless they are properly treated. As a vascular surgeon, Dr. Reigstad provides people suffering from varicose veins the option to correct this troublesome condition.

The development of varicose and spider veins is very common and often linked to our genetics, says to Dr. Reigstad. “If your parents have either spider or varicose veins, you are much more likely to get them as well,” she explained.

Dr. Reigstad also sees many women who have varicose or spider veins that appear after the birth of a child with the hormone changes the body goes through. Another common source of varicose veins is occupations that require people to stand for many hours. “People who have jobs that require them to stand for long periods of time are more inclined to have vein issues in their legs,” Dr. Reigstad said.

Varicose veins are caused by leaky valves in the legs that control blood flow. When these valves aren’t functioning properly, pressure builds up and the blood has nowhere to go except into small branches of the veins. These branches aren’t meant to take on high blood pressures so they dilate and get bigger, creating varicose veins.

Imagine the veins in your legs as a river, with a dam serving as the valves. If the dam breaks, the water builds up and starts to overflow, creating small streams. In order to stop the creation of these small streams, you have to correct the source feeding the problem, the vein.

The approach usually begins with a vein ablation, which is the process of clotting off the vein through a small incision in the calf. “This does not take the vein out,” Dr. Reigstad explained. “But it makes it ineffective, so the idea is that the vein can no longer feed all the little varicose vein branches.”

With people who have mild varicose veins, Dr. Reigstad says this is typically the only procedure needed to correct the issue. However, for large veins or veins close to the ankle, patients may need further surgical removal. These veins are removed through small 1/8 to 1/4 inch incisions. “This is a nice procedure because the incisions are so small,” Dr. Reigstad said. “There can be minor bleeding and bruising afterward but cosmetically the results are great in the long run.”

Whether you are having an ablation or vein removal, varicose vein surgery is done through a simple, outpatient procedure. “It’s pretty much get up and go,” Dr. Reigstad said. “There may be some pain and bruising but that will subside after a few days.”

On average, Dr. Reigstad performs 1 to 2 vein correction surgeries each week on patients as young as 20 years old. “By the time I see a patient, they are usually pretty eager to find a solution,” Dr. Reigstad explained. “We never push people to have their veins treated surgically. It is their choice and we always weigh the risks and benefits of treatment options based on each individual.”

With this procedure, Dr. Reigstad says she enjoys giving people the chance to become pain and irritation free. “The people I have treated have been very satisfied with their results,” Dr. Reigstad said. Whether it’s getting back into a pair of shorts or getting back on your feet, vascular surgery could be the answer to your varicose vein issues.