There’s Hope for Troubling Leg Veins

Jane Schilling, 52, thought she’d just have to live with itchy, painful legs. After all, her mother had bad veins. So when her legs started swelling up after she turned 40, she just figured it was her lot in life. “The itching was so bad, I’d scratch my skin raw sometimes,” recalls the Vacaville resident.

She visited a number of doctors, who prescribed various topical lotions or sent her to a dermatologist. She even tried some of her grandmother’s poultices and some crazy remedies she read about, including one that involved kerosene. “Don’t try this at home,” she jokes.

It turned out that the gate valves in her veins no longer worked properly. As a result, blood flow would settle in her lower legs, causing the swelling and itching. Her legs, feet and ankles were all swollen. It felt like she was wearing snow boots all the time. She even had a hard time standing up if she’d been sitting for awhile.

It was certainly a problem, because in her job as director of volunteer services for NorthBay Healthcare, she has to be on her toes, keeping the NorthBay Guild and various volunteer programs moving forward.

“I would tell every woman who suspects that she might have this to ask her doctor. You don’t have to live with this condition.”

Then one day, she volunteered to help with the grand opening of NorthBay’s Center for Women’s Health, and her life changed.

She was assigned to monitor a discussion led by cardiothoracic surgeon Seph Naficy, M.D. His topic was varicose veins and circulation. “I felt like he was speaking directly to me,” Jane recalls. “Every symptom he discussed, I had. I started asking questions and practically took over the session.”

Later, she visited Dr. Naficy’s office, where Karen DeGroot, R.N. and a registered vascular technologist performed some tests that confirmed it. “They told me I hit the jackpot. I was a candidate for venous closure.”

Within weeks, the procedure was scheduled. A small incision was made at the back of Jane’s knee. A catheter emanating painless radiofrequency waves was inserted and used to collapse the malfunctioning vein. The deep vein in her leg “took over,” delivering blood back to the heart. “The body’s pretty smart,” says Jane. Forty minutes later, she walked out of the office. “I could immediately tell that my legs didn’t feel heavy.”

Now she can ride in an airplane without the fear of her ankles swelling. Her legs no longer appear blue, and her varicose veins have disappeared. She has more stamina, can exercise at will, and even punctuates her remarks with a kick, showing off her new-found flexibility.

“I would tell every woman who suspects that she might have this to ask her doctor. You don’t have to live with this condition.”

Dr. Naficy says that both men and women can experience venous reflux disease, although it is more prominent in women.

“For a problem that affects the general population five to 10 times more than arterial disease, it’s surprising how under-reported it is,” said Dr. Naficy. “We have the modern tools to address it aggressively and in a minimally invasive manner.”

To that end, Karen DeGroot attends health fairs and visits senior citizen communities, educating the public about venous problems and treatment options.

For more information, contact DeGroot at (707) 422-2348.

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