Just over 18 years ago, I gave birth to my son. He weighed 9.5 lbs at birth, a behemoth that I carried in my womb for 40 weeks.
Now, having something that large, plus a placenta and amniotic fluid, inside you can block stuff. The arteries contain high pressure from the heart. That pressure, and the thick, muscular walls that contain it, keeps arteries flowing. Veins are different critters. The pressures run lower as blood returns to the heart. Veins are squishy. They depend on contractions of the muscles in limbs to help move blood in the correct direction, as well as a series of valves to prevent blood from flowing backward, especially in the legs. Pregnancy does not make this task any easier. In some women, the veins in the legs can be damaged by the increased pressure. The valves may fail, resulting in varicose veins.
The photo of my left knee shows a tortuous vein running across. Over time, given the need to stay upright throughout my workday, the pressure in the veins has taken its toll. This week I am having my painful veins corrected.
What are these veins?
Circulation to the leg returns to the heart via a deep venous system and a superficial system shown in the diagram. The deep veins include the tibial, popliteal, femoral, and iliac vessels. These vessels can spawn clots that travel to the lungs and other organs, so-called deep venous thrombosis or DVT. Varicose veins occur in the superficial saphenous veins. While life-threatening events are not common, these veins can become painful after dilated. The feet may become swollen as venous return gets compromised.
In my own case, I have a couple of spots that get inflamed when I sit for long periods of time. After one bout of air travel last summer, I had a spot on my right knee that became tender and warm to the touch. Suddenly, getting surgery on these bad boys did not seem so scary.
Fixing varicose veins
In the old days, the only way to get rid of these was surgical stripping. Via small incisions at the top and bottom of the system, the surgeon tied off the vessels and then... ripped them out.
Now varicose veins can be treated with endovenous laser therapy. A tiny flexible laser is threaded up the veins and scleroses or scars them as it is pulled out. This sounds so Star Wars!
My own surgeon usually strips some of the larger segments after scarring them "for better results."
I will be off work the rest of this week; apparently my legs will be tightly wrapped in Ace bandages for a few days. I will blog updates on the procedure from home.
A bunch of women my age want to know if this procedure is as easy as the website says. In a bit over 24 hours, I will know. Call me Dr. Guinea Pig.