Younger Looking Legs Courtesy of Iowa Vein Center

By: Angie M. Chatman

It's summertime at last. That means swimsuits, shorts, T-shirts, sleeveless dresses, and halter tops. And of course there will be invitations to weddings graduations and class reunions. I went to a reunion recently. I spent most of the afternoon and evening mentally comparing the way my classmates look now to the way they looked back in college. Ronda looked good in a natural non-surgical way. She could have easily been returning for the five-year milestone instead of the 25-year one. Except, I could see varicose veins around her ankles. When we were in school Ronda wore skirts - short ones. The thick blue lines probably wound up her legs as well which could be one reason she wore a white linen pantsuit and sat most of the time.

Fortunately varicose veins can be eliminated through a minor outpatient and relatively painless surgical procedure done in a comfortable colorful clinic without anesthesia or sedation. Iowa Vein Center located in West Des Moines offers several safe treatment options for venous disease. The professionals at the Iowa Vein Center have over 19 years of experience and are led by Dr. Jose Olivencia.

Dr. Olivencia explains that varicose veins and their milder and smaller counterpart spider veins are twisted enlarged or dilated veins that have lost the ability to carry blood back to the heart so that it can be recirculated. The body being the amazing wonder that it is, grows new veins to do the work of carrying the blood. But the old ones remain to bulge, itch and mar the beauty of otherwise gorgeous gams.

Varicose veins can be located anywhere in the body but are typically found on the lower extremities because standing and walking increase pressure on the veins there. In addition to their blue and purplish appearance, varicose veins can be painful. And if left untreated Dr. Olivencia points out varicose veins can lead to blood clots (thrombosis) inflammation of the vein (phlebitis) inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) and ulceration.

Varicose veins can also signal potential problems with the body's circulatory system.

Twenty-five percent of American women and 15% of American men suffer from varicose veins, according to Dr. Olivencia so my classmate Ronda is not alone. In fact Ronda's case is fairly typical. Her mother had varicose veins and after her second child was born Ronda noticed that she too had acquired them. Genetics and multiple pregnancies are the main contributing factors to varicose veins. Other causes include obesity standing or sitting for extended periods of time and traumatic injury to the legs, Except for obesity there are few preventive measures that someone can take to avoid varicose veins. However Dr. Olivencia notes if effective treatment is provided early then the risk of thrombosis and phlebitis can be minimized.

I asked Ronda why she didn't undergo the necessary surgery to have her veins removed. Her reason: fear. She was afraid that the surgery would be more painful than the disease. She was afraid that she would need weeds to recover. She was afraid that since her motivation was to improve the way her legs looked insurance would not cover the expense. Dr. Olivencia says that fear is a common response and that Ronda's concerns stem from common misconceptions. ''Varicose veins are a medical concern '' Dr. Olivencia emphasizes. ''Most of my patients are referred to me by their primary care physician and most insurance carriers reimburse the charges. After all blood clots can lead to a stroke so it's wise to take care of the varicose veins in order to prevent the more dire complications.''

What about the need for weeks of recovery from varicose vein removal? I was told that the busiest day at the clinic is Friday. Iowa Vein Center performs more surgeries on that day so people can rest over the weekend and return to work on Monday. The reason for the short recuperation time is technology. As Dr. Olivencia points out ''Most people don't realize just how much technology has impacted this area of medicine. It used to be that the procedure used was vein stripping, where an incision was made in the area and an instrument called a ''stripper'' was inserted into the incision. The varicose vein was removed and the incision was stitched closed. Because the incision was large there was a higher potential for infection and scars often remained after the surgery. The process also was long, which necessitated a longer postoperative recovery period.

With the invention of the Ambulatory Phlebectomy Hook, vein surgery was revolutionized. Dr. Olivencia explains: ''Nowadays we make micro incisions into the area - very small only 1 to 2 millimeters. The vein is pulled out in short segments instead of all at once so we get great cosmetic resulted there is very little scarring.''

Not all patients require the Ambulatory Phlebectomy. People with smaller spider veins may qualify for sclerotherapy treatments. With this procedure a special solution is injected into the vein. The unwanted veins then swell close and gradually disappear. Other possible treatments include laser or endoscopic vein surgery, depending on the severity and extent of the damaged vein.

Dr. Olivencia has seen all kinds of cases having been with the Iowa Vein Center since its inception in 1988 as its medical director. He was born in Argentina and came to Des Moines as an intern at Mercy Hospital. Dr. Olivencia then completed a general surgical residency at the Des Moines Veterans Administration Hospital. He later completed the requirements and passed the necessary examinations to become a board certified surgeon.

I was surprised that someone with Dr. Olivencia's extensive expertise and experience isn't a heart or brain surgeon. Those are the more popular areas of medicine. Why did he choose phlebology, the study of veins? ''Like most physicians I got into medicine in order to help people-to make them feel better. I started the Iowa Vein Clinic because here I get immediate gratification for my work. People walk out of the door feeling better and looking better."

I'm going to let my friend Ronda know about the new treatments for varicose and spider veins. That way she can wear a short skirt to our next reunion.

For a consultation contact the Iowa Vein Center at 2425 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines. Call 222-VEIN (8346) or toll-free at 888-228-VEIN to set up an appointment.

Or visit their Web site at for more information.

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