Varicose Vein Treatment Uncovers Hereditary Link

For years, Colleen Giachetti’s legs bothered her. It started when she was pregnant. Then she gained a little weight. Over time, the veins in her legs started looking gnarled – a classic symptom of varicose veins. At first she thought it was a cosmetic issue. But as time passed, those veins became more and more painful.  And it just kept getting worse.

“It got to the point where I was uncomfortable both walking and sitting,” said Colleen. “The last 5 years were the worst. My legs just felt heavy and tired all the time.”

Colleen wanted to be more active, but her leg pain made it impossible. She had always wanted to do something about her varicose veins, but she didn’t have insurance that would cover it. Then, she got a new job with better insurance and she made an appointment with Dr. Gilvydis.

Walking into the clinic, Colleen felt at ease immediately. “It was very upbeat,” she said. “You could tell that everyone who works there likes their job and they want to be there,” noting that’s often not the case at many doctor’s offices.

After talking to Dr. Gilvydis, she knew she had made the right decision. “When I walked into the office, I felt confident I was in the right place and was going to be taken care of.” Colleen said. “Dr. Gilvydis, was extremely kind and down to earth. He understood what it was like to have varicose veins and how to treat them. He’s an amazing doctor and human being.”

Dr. Gilvydis created a treatment plan and Colleen’s varicose veins were first treated using endovenous laser ablation (EVLA). The procedure uses a minimally invasive laser technique.

Colleen said she was a little nervous going in for the first treatment, but the vein clinic staff made her feel comfortable immediately, greeting her and playing her favorite music throughout the procedure. About a month after both legs were treated with EVLA, she was evaluated for any residual varicose vein branches.

“In approximately 50 percent of our patients, there are a few residual veins,” said Dr. Gilvydis. “These are scheduled for ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy, which is typically performed in one session per leg.  After that, there are no more follow ups or treatments necessary.”

Quick Recovery Time

During recovery from each procedure, Colleen was told to walk as much as possible. She was surprised by how quickly her condition improved. “Even though my legs were still tender, I didn’t have that dragging feeling I had before,” she said.

Dr. Gilvydis noted that they always encourage patients to do as much walking as possible from the moment the EVLA procedure is completed. “If they are sitting, we encourage them to elevate their legs.  Both of these allow for improved blood return to the heart from the veins in the legs,” he said.

Today, Colleen is amazed by the results. “It’s like having 20-year-old legs,” she said. And they look better too. “Now, I can wear shorts and dresses without being embarrassed.” Colleen said she’s already told people that it’s 100 percent worthwhile and they shouldn’t wait to do it.

The Hereditary Link

Not only was she pleased with her results, but she also learned a lot about her condition. She remembered her grandmother had severe varicose veins. Her legs were always purple and red and painful. What she didn’t know was that varicose veins were often hereditary. And she wasn’t aware of the danger of blood clots caused by varicose veins. “I’ve told my sons that men can get varicose veins too,” said Colleen.

“Since there are so many misconceptions about varicose veins, we dedicate a significant amount of our time to educating our patients on vein disease,” said Dr. Gilvydis.  “A majority of patients still believe that varicose veins are a cosmetic problem and that the symptoms they are experiencing in their legs are not related to their bad veins.”

While lack of insurance stopped Colleen from seeking treatment earlier, Dr. Gilvydis said that as long as patients have symptoms in their legs, all insurance companies cover the initial consultation and ultrasound of the leg veins. Most will cover at least a portion of the EVLA laser procedure.

For anyone who has pain or swelling in their legs, Dr. Gilvydis recommends being evaluated for underlying varicose veins. “A referral to the vein clinic is no longer necessary,” he said. “You can call and make an appointment directly.”

Grocer Gets Quick Relief from Varicose Veins

Tim Oliver owns Oliver’s Corner Grocery in Dixon, Illinois, where he’s also chief butcher. It’s a job that keeps him on his feet most of the day. The 62 year old had varicose veins for years. (His mom had them too.) They didn’t bother him too much, but in the last couple of years, he started to get blood pooling in his right ankle. It got to the point where it was disturbing his sleep because putting his legs up was so painful.

Another thing that bothered him was the way his legs looked. “I like to golf, and I was embarrassed to wear shorts,” he said. “When my grandkids saw them they said ‘you’ve got owies all over your legs.’”

As the pain became increasingly unbearable, he went to his primary doctor for advice. His doctor recommended laser treatment for his varicose veins. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a facility near his home in Dixon that did laser treatment. However, his sister-in-law said she’d heard that Dr. Gilvydis is a great doctor.

Off he went to see Dr. Gilvydis to have his veins checked out. On initial exam, he was told that he had a really bad case of varicose veins. When Dr. Gilvydis recommended laser treatment, Tim didn’t hesitate. “You’ve got a choice,” he said. “You can improve your quality of life or do nothing.”

Once he decided to have laser treatment, he didn’t waste any time. “Golf season is coming up,” he said. The first week of treatment, he went 3 days in a row for laser treatment on his right leg. Dr. Gilvydis used a minimally invasive laser technique called endovenous laser ablation (EVLA). Tim wore a compression stocking for a week, and the following week he saw Dr. Gilvydis twice for treatment on his left leg – five laser treatments in all.

Tim said there was literally no downtime. “I worked every day,” he said. “It felt better to stand than just lay around. Standing felt so much better than putting my legs up.” And Dr. Gilvydis encouraged him to walk as much as possible.

A month later, Tim went back for an ultrasound to make sure his veins were healing. The very next day he was back to have his spider veins treated too. “About half of our patients have a few residual veins after laser treatment,” said Dr. Gilvydis. “We typically use ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy to treat them. It’s usually one session per leg.”

After completing the treatments, Tim couldn’t be happier. “It’s the best thing I ever did,” he said. “My legs feel so good. I was amazed by how light my legs felt. They always felt so heavy. And they look so good too.”

Tim is convinced that he chose the right treatment for his varicose veins. “Laser is the best way to go by far,” he said. In fact, Tim said that while he was in the waiting room at the vein clinic he met a man who told him he had his leg veins stripped twice and the varicose veins had returned.

For anyone who’s suffering from varicose veins but is hesitant to have laser treatment, Tim sends an open invitation to stop into his store to hear about his experience. “Come in and talk to me,” he said. “I’ll tell you to just do it. Your quality of life is going to improve dramatically, and you’ll be happy you did it.”

Varicose vein treatments gives patient ‘two new legs’

Tom Adland thought his varicose vein issues would permanently sideline him from everyday life. But then he met Dr. Rimas Gilvydis and his team.

 

Adland’s varicose veins started bothering him about 15 years ago. Since that time, the now-68-year-old underwent three vein-stripping procedures.

 

“It was just to no avail,” he recalled. “They came back and were worse, so I just kind of threw up my hands.”

 

Genetics play a part in his condition, as two of his brothers also sought treatment for varicose veins. And while exercise can help decrease the symptoms from varicose veins (Adland used to be a jogger, and he and his wife, Lynn, played tennis and racquetball and rode bicycles together), even those types of activities became too painful. It hurt just to sit, he said.

 

Things got so bad that walking a one-block distance with Lynn to a restaurant or shop was difficult. “She would get to the end of the block, and I’d only be halfway there. It hurt to extend my stride and try to keep pace. People got tired of waiting on me.”

 

Lynn heard about Dr. Rimas Gilvydis from patients who had reported great results with minimally invasive laser treatments that are now available. So Adland made an appointment.

 

“During my consultation, I started to describe to Dr. Gilvydis how my legs hurt and how they limited my lifestyle. He stopped me halfway through and said, ‘We’re going to solve that. We’re going to give you two new legs.’ And by golly, he did it.”

 

Dr. Gilvydis said pain and swelling are among the most common symptoms of varicose veins, and those symptoms are caused by venous stasis – old, stagnant blood pooling and collecting in the legs, which worsens as the day goes on. Venous stasis is caused by permanently damaged valves in the legs. Patients often attribute this and its symptoms to being part of the normal aging process, but, left untreated, symptoms worsen: swelling, pain, purplish discoloration, cellulitis, scar tissue, ulcers, bleeding varicose veins and blood clots.

 

Varicose veins can be easily closed with Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) in an outpatient setting. Once treated, the venous stasis resolved, Dr. Gilvydis said.

 

Adland said he never had any pain with the laser treatments, a major change from the leg-stripping procedures of old. “There was an occasional pinch, but Dr. Gilvydis was always good about warning me.”

 

Recovery was also painless, and Adland was pleased that the compression stockings he wore post-treatment had also improved in design through the years.

 

Adland grew especially fond of the clinic’s staff during his treatment appointments. “They go out of the way to make sure everything works for you. They’re great people.”

 

He connected to the staff so well, he used his experience working in aerospace to help ease an employee’s fear of flying. He appreciated that staff members were always flexible in making appointments that fit with his work schedule.

 

The clinic’s comprehensive vein care begins with patient education, Dr. Gilvydis noted. And because EVLA treatment is very standardized, the staff can create a comfortable environment in the treatment rooms: Patients can select the type of music they listen to; they have their own ultrasound monitor, which allows them to see the work being done; and because only local anesthesia is used, Dr. Gilvydis and his team are able to talk with patients throughout the entire procedure.

 

“We want every patient to understand what varicose veins are, how they are affecting their health and how we can help them,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “The more our patients are educated about varicose veins and their treatment, the less anxiety they are likely to experience.”

 

Today, Adland can proudly “keep pace with anyone.” In less than a year, he has shed more than 75 pounds, and his ability to exercise and focus on his health has improved with the leg vein treatment.

 

“I can’t say enough good things,” Adland said of his experience. “I’ve recommended the office to anybody who is willing to engage in a discussion about varicose veins. You can’t ask for a better specialist to work with.”

 

As for Adland’s “two new legs,” Dr. Gilvydis said patients often describe their legs feeling lighter and younger, not experiencing swelling or aching, and lamenting that they wish they would have sought treatment sooner.

 

“I am pleased with every single patient we treat, whether the varicose veins are mild, moderate or severe,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “Having specialized in EVLA over the past 14 years, there are no patients that we can’t treat. Tom presented with a history of prior surgical stripping and blood clots. This doesn’t affect our scope of treatment. In fact, the more complex and advanced the varicose vein disease, the more I would like to treat patients, as their results can be very dramatic.”

Varicose vein treatment gives exercise enthusiast a leg up on life again

Years of progressive leg pain was taking a toll on Donna Monger. At age 70, Donna was concerned that with a family history of painful varicose veins, strokes and heart attacks, that if she didn’t do anything about her leg pain, it would develop into something more debilitating.  

Donna had been suffering from varicose veins since she was young. After the birth of her children, her vein problems progressed and the leg pain worsened. Throughout the years, she also developed back issues that sent her to her primary physician, who recommended she visit a pain specialist. Determined to not take potentially addictive prescription pain medication, Donna sought alternative treatment options.  

She is now an avid exercise enthusiast! Exercising at one and a half hours a day, Donna’s back was feeling great but her legs were another story. Her exercise regime was adding pain and discomfort to her legs. She knew if she didn’t do anything it would hinder her exercise routine and ultimately her back pain would return. 

“The biggest reason why I went to see Dr. Gilvydis, was to make sure I could continue exercising without having to go on potentially addictive prescription pain medication,” Donna said. “I saw a television commercial about Dr. Gilvydis and decided to pick up the phone to schedule a free vein screening.” 

Donna said she was unsure what to expect when she arrived at the clinic, but was reassured after she met Dr. Gilvydis and his staff. She felt welcomed as a patient – the staff told her about their experiences and that the laser treatments were safe. “It was very important to me that I was welcomed with open arms,” she said. “The staff were very friendly and professional.” 

Dr. Gilvydis said Donna was presenting very common symptoms from varicose veins: tired and painful legs, cramps and restless legs. What most people don’t know is that restless legs are commonly caused by varicose veins and often times will interfere with sleep, he said. 

“Patient education is very important to us. We want patients to understand what varicose veins are, why they have them, why they are causing symptoms and why they are at higher risk for developing blood clots, bleeding, cellulitis and ulcers,” he said. “The more educated patients are, the much more comfortable they are moving forward with treatment. Just as it was with Donna, treatment plans are discussed at length with every patient. All procedures are conducted outpatient and typically last less than an hour. Complication rates are very low and patients may return to work the next day.” 

Donna said she was anxious about potential blood clots, so prior to the vein procedure she had two thorough ultrasounds that indicated no clotting. Although she felt as ease about not having blood clots, she was still nervous the first day of the procedure. She was soon, however, relieved of her fears. She said Dr. Gilvydis was nice and comforting during the procedure. He calmed her nerves through constant communication by educating her about vein health, talking about off-subject topics and engaging in normal every day conversation.  

“I had no surprises during the procedure and I continue to recommend Dr. Gilvydis to others I know who have leg pain problems,” she said. Post treatment, she no longer has leg pain issues. An unexpected outcome is that prior to treatment, her body was could never seem to warm up. Now, she is no longer cold and looks forward to feeling warmer during the cooler fall and winter months. 

Today, Donna feels like she has a leg up on life again. She says she no longer worries about having to take prescription pain medication or worrying about leg pain preventing her from exercising. “Dr. Gilvydis and his team have given me the opportunity to live a healthy and active lifestyle again.” 

Cortland man scraps lifetime of compression socks for successful leg vein treatment

Rodney Lent thought compression stockings were the only solution to his leg pain until he underwent successful treatment last year at Gilvydis Vein Clinic.

The Cortland resident started experiencing swollen, itchy ankles about three years ago when his job shifted more from sitting to standing. His average workday requires him to stand 10 to 12 hours on a concrete floor using a computer. The problems bothered his right leg more than the left leg, but he scratched so much that an ulcer developed. When he’d return home in the evenings and remove his compression stockings, his ulcer would peel open again.

The advice from his primary care physician didn’t seem all that promising. “He suggested that I wear compression stockings every day for the rest of my life,” Lent noted.

Lent, 57, was flipping through a local newspaper and noticed an ad for a free vein screening through Gilvydis Vein Clinic (GVC) in Sycamore. The ad mentioned sore legs, varicose veins and swelling in the legs. He thought, “What can I lose? It’s free!” Lent called the office after hours on a Saturday and got a call back on Monday to set an appointment.

“My legs hurt, and my feet were killing me,” he recalled. “In the weeks prior to me visiting (Dr. Rimas Gilvydis), I was experiencing a sharp pain from the site of the ulcer. It felt like someone was sticking a needle in my leg.”

As a physician who exclusively treats vein disease, Dr. Gilvydis sees many varicose vein patients who have developed ulcers. About 25 percent of patients present with advanced stages of varicose vein disease, which includes leg swelling, skin changes, and healed and active ulcers. Many people also associate varicose veins with just women, as many of these veins present during pregnancy. But about 45 percent of Dr. Gilvydis’ patients are male, and there is no difference in the severity of the disease among the genders.

Lent underwent minimally invasive laser treatments for his varicose veins at GVC in October 2016. He had been skeptical that the procedure would work because of the severity of the ulcer and his pain, but he was encouraged by the depth of knowledge and friendliness of Gilvydis and his staff (and that the procedure was covered by insurance).

Because of the ulcer, Lent’s procedure was a bit more painful than normal, but he said it was over quickly.

“I was not sore afterward,” he recalled. “There was a bit of bruising and discoloration but no soreness. I walked out feeling confident, and I was glad it was over. The pain I had experienced daily was completely gone! The ulcer had healed and closed up within a week.”

He was also surprised not to have any downtime from work. Now, he talks about his story to anyone who mentions leg issues.

“I actually boast about what a great place (GVC) is,” he said. “The entire staff is great. (Dr. Gilvydis) is awesome, too!”

Lent still wears compression stockings at work but rarely on his days off. The discoloration on his right leg is still present but slowly diminishing, enough that he started wearing shorts again without worry of people “asking me about the big spot on my leg.” He also no longer has restless legs, another benefit of the treatment.

“The results after laser treatment of varicose veins is nothing short of spectacular,” Gilvydis said. “I tell patients that whatever symptoms disappear after treatment were likely due to their varicose veins, which allow old venous blood to drain back down and pool in the legs. By sealing and eliminating these veins, we improve the flow of old blood out of the legs.

“Most patients tell us that they are amazed at how much better their legs feel and that they wish they would gotten them treated years ago.”

Gilvydis also works to educate primary care physicians about modern treatment for varicose veins. Any patients who present with legs that feel painful, achy or tired, restless legs, cramps, swelling or cellulitis should be evaluated for underlying varicose vein issues.

Teacher thankful for return of ‘happy’ legs after effective varicose vein treatment

Long days of teaching exacerbated the burning and restless feelings in Kendra Brauer’s legs. The bruises and visible veins also provoked curious questions from her second-grade students if she wore anything shorter than full-length pants.

Brauer first noticed a bruise on her leg when she was in her mid-20s. Slowly, more veins showed up and become more pronounced after two pregnancies. She stopped wearing shorts. Climbing stairs was especially painful – but she wasn’t out of shape, she thought.

A call to action came when Brauer saw an article about Dr. Rimas Gilvydis in a local magazine. After reading the article, Brauer realized effective and efficient treatment for leg vein issues was a possibility, and the process wasn’t merely cosmetic.

So Brauer called to make an appointment for a free leg vein screening. She was surprised to find out her right leg was worse than her left leg, in terms of vein issues. Most notable to Dr. Gilvydis after reviewing Brauer’s patient questionnaire was that she had experienced leg swelling, tiredness/fatigue, cramps, restless legs, bulging veins and aches/pains for more than eight years.

“Her symptoms, which slowly progressed over the years and were worse at the end of the day, were very typical of varicose vein patients,” Gilvydis noted.

Brauer wore compression stockings until her appointments in November 2016, when treatment was administered on both legs over a two-week period. She was nervous about the process, but Dr. Gilvydis helped calm her fears.

He explained that the procedure is minimally invasive, utilizing soft catheters inserted into the diseased veins. There is no surgery involved, and the complication rate is close to zero. Gilvydis has performed more than 20,000 procedures – with excellent outcomes – since they were first introduced in 2001.

Brauer said her nerves stemmed mainly from not knowing what to expect. Having only been familiar with horror stories from her aunt and hairdresser about the old method of vein stripping, “I was concerned that I would be a wimp and not tolerate the procedure,” she joked.

But the procedures went well. Brauer was surprised at how fast everything went, and the needles and laser didn’t bother her at all. She was sore for a few nights and had bruising, as expected, but she didn’t have any trouble walking or returning to work.

“After the second leg procedure and I was done with my stockings, I noticed how much lighter my legs felt,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was to go up the stairs. I slept better and overall I could just move easier.”

Dr. Gilvydis said Brauer’s experience and feelings coming into the procedure are not uncommon. Most patients are misinformed about either their varicose vein disease – thinking it’s insignificant or cosmetic – or about the treatment type and success rate. Many are told that the discomfort they experience is just normal aging or insignificant.

“What most patients don’t realize is that the symptoms are slowly affecting their lifestyles in a negative way,” he said. “Some are told that there is nothing that can be done. The reality is that if you have any type of leg symptoms, such as pain, discomfort, swelling or aching, you likely have varicose veins that are causing them.”

Brauer said working with Dr. Gilvydis and his team was easy: “From the office staff, nurses and doctors, everyone was helpful and kind.” They educated her about vein health, and she said Dr. Gilvydis’ expertise in the subject helped her feel more relaxed.