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New Mayo service tackles varicose veins

FAIRMONT — Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont has added a new patient service to treat varicose veins, those unflattering and possibly dangerous enlarged veins that usually occur in your legs.

“Varicose veins are very common. About 20 percent of people will have some varicose veins in their lifetime,” said Dr. Kendra Kamlitz, surgeon on staff at Fairmont Mayo. “They do accumulate with age, and they are more common in women than they are in men.”

According to Mayo’s website, varicose veins are caused by weak or damaged valves. Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues, and veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart to be recirculated. To return blood to your heart, the veins in your legs must work against gravity.

Muscle contractions in your lower legs act as pumps, and elastic vein walls help blood return to your heart. Tiny valves in your veins open as blood flows toward your heart then close to stop blood from flowing backward. If these valves are weak or damaged, blood can flow backward and pool, causing the veins to stretch or twist.

While there are a variety of treatments for varicose veins, Kamlitz relies on three procedures to get rid of those abnormal blood vessels and improve blood flow to the heart.

Ablation, the most involved procedure, uses a small laser passed inside the main vein on the surface of the leg. The laser filament burns the inside of the incompetent vein, closing it down and redirecting blood flow deeper into the leg and back to the heart.

Smaller, ropy veins are removed by a phlebectomy, a procedure that removes segments of a diseased vein through small incisions.

The third treatment, sclerotherapy, is a minimally invasive procedure usually used on tiny spider veins. A foam chemical is injected into veins, causing them to close down.

“For the ablation procedure or the phlebectomy procedure, we do those in our same day surgery area. They do have more recovery time,” Kamlitz said. “We recommend that people take it easy for about a week afterwards, and we also have them wear compression socks to decrease the amount of bruising, swelling and discomfort.

“Getting back to normal activities takes a day or two, but for heavy exercise wait one to two weeks.”

Which procedure is used is specific to each individual and the level of disease.

“We go over all of that in the initial consultation,” Kamlitz said. “Some people have a lot of disease and take more than one treatment to address it. Some people just have a few tiny veins and need a single treatment that can be done in the clinic in less than half an hour with minimal recovery time.”

The initial consultation also involves review of criteria for insurance coverage, which varies from company to company, but pain relief and treatment, such as compression socks, are started right away.

Kamlitz is now just starting to see patients for the vein procedures.

“The main symptoms are heaviness in the legs and pain that worsens with standing. There can be large ropy veins. There can be changes in the skin. For some people, there can be bleeding or sores that develop on the legs,” she said.

“These are much easier to treat earlier rather than later so if you are having those symptoms of pain and heaviness in the legs, it’s very worthwhile to have evaluated.”

To schedule an appointment or consultation with Kamlitz, call (507) 238-8500.

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