Healthy Living: The Iowa Vein Center

By: Virginia Gruver

Step into Summer with Healthier Legs

Even though summer is just around the corner, do you dread slipping into swimwear, shorts, and sandals because of varicose and spider veins? You now have more options than simply covering up all summer or suffering from an invasive surgery such as vein stripping.

Varicose veins are weakened and dilated veins that are unable to carry the blood flow from the legs back up to the heart. They usually cause painful throbbing and swelling. They could also be the cause of nighttime leg cramps and Restless Leg Syndrome.

Varicose veins affect men as well as women. Just as gender isn't a factor, neither is age. Sixteen percent of all procedures are performed on patients 65 years and older. Though varicose veins appear all over the body, they are most visible in the legs because of the pressure from standing and walking.

Dr. Jose Olivencia with the Iowa Vein Center has been treating Iowans' vein problems since 1988. He was born in Mendoza, Argentina, and he graduated from Cuyo National University School of Medicine in Argentina. He completed an internship at Mercy Hospital and a general surgery residency at the Veterans Hospital in Des Moines. He has been a keynote speaker at conferences worldwide, and he has published articles in medical journals. He also collaborated on the book, Venous Disease for Clinicians, The Fundamentals of Phlebology. When asked what made him choose Des Moines to settle down in and start his clinic, he says that his family likes living here. The people are friendly and it feels like home.

He explains that each patient receives personalized care specific to his or her needs. The options include: wearing prescription-strength compression stockings to help relieve swelling and pain; microsurgery and catheter occlusion, which are performed with very small incisions that rarely require stitching. They are performed in an outpatient setting with quick recovery. Patients can resume most normal activities the following day; microextraction, which involves removing the large or small vein that is close to the surface with small incisions. Patients are encouraged to walk and may return to most of their normal routines usually by the next day; a procedure called ligation, which involves tying off a non-working vein through minor surgery; a catheter occlusion replaces the vein-stripping method by using laser and radio frequency catheters to heat up and seal off the vein. These methods are used for larger veins.

All of the procedures used today are less invasive than the vein stripping method done years ago, Dr. Olivencia explains. Recovery times are shorter, and they involve getting the patient up and moving as quickly as possible.

Dr. Olivencia says that there isn't always a way to prevent varicose veins because the leading cause is heredity. Other causes are pregnancy, obesity, and jobs that require you to stand for long periods of time. Early treatment can prevent complications later on. He advises to stay active, keep your weight down, elevate your legs, and use compression stockings to improve blood flow.

Deb, one of Dr. Olivencia's patients, says she came to the Iowa Vein Center when she was experiencing problems with her legs. She was encouraged by the fact that the facility has its own outpatient clinic staffed by its own nurses, an anesthetist, and surgery support. She was also grateful because she was able to have the procedure done and go home on the same day. The recovery period was short and relatively painless. Also, the staff was great about working with her insurance company to make sure the pre-certifications and all the documentation was in order, she says.

She describes her legs' previous condition: "I had bulgy varicose veins in my legs, my feet and ankles would swell, and my legs really ached if I stood or walked very far. It was adversely affecting my quality of life, and I was concerned about what it was doing to my health." She goes on to say, "I am used to health care practitioners telling you that it will be 'uncomfortable,' which means it's going to hurt like the dickens. But I really had very little discomfort. They did one leg one week and the other leg the next week. I went home each time and felt fine. I had to leave the bandages on for a day and be careful about washing my leg so I wouldn't introduce an infection. I had to scale back a little on exercise until everything healed, but that was a quick process."

Deb says that the Iowa Vein Center employs very skilled and caring people. They prepared her for the procedure by showing her a video, and they answered all of her questions. She never felt rushed, and she always felt confident that she was in good hands. She says that not only has the appearance of her legs improved, but her quality of life has as well. She now enjoys walking, and she has been able to go on three-mile daily walks, which she wasn't able to do before. Now her legs don't hurt and her feet don't swell.

Other disorders treated by the Iowa Vein Center are dark leg, swollen leg, leg ulcers, bleeding from leg veins, deep vein thrombosis, chronic venous insufficiency, skin blemishes, and unwanted hair.

Another specialty at the Iowa Vein Center is the treatment of leg ulcers. When leg wounds fail to heal in a specific time, they have the expertise to treat the wound and prevent rapid deterioration that would require surgery, Dr. Olivencia says. The Center monitors patients who have suffered from leg ulcers in the past through the Chronic Venous Insufficiency Clinic. This prevents future problems with ulcers either reappearing or recurring, Dr Olivencia explains.

Deb says, "I recently looked at my chart and was amazed at how ugly and bad my legs looked before. It was like a careless child had taken a big blue marker and written on my legs, leaving welts. Those are all gone now."

Call the Iowa Vein Center for a consultation. You can also visit The Iowa Vein Center is located at 2425 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines. You can call 222-VEIN (8346) or toll-free at 888-288-VEIN to set up an appointment.

© Copyright 2010, Women's Edition