A pain in the leg could be a sign of a serious problem. Some 20 million people have venous reflux disease, a problem with the veins in their legs.
Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center Dr. Sanjay Tripathi says the condition is even more common than heart disease, but it often goes misdiagnosed or untreated.
Veins in the legs can dilate and become bigger over time. Dr. Tripathi says it happens when the valves in the veins that keep blood from flowing back toward the feet become incompetent. As blood starts pooling, it can cause swelling, fluid accumulation, skin breakdown or wounds that won't heal. People with venous disease might feel aching in the legs, and see varicose veins. A special ultrasound can diagnose it for sure.
Smaller varicose veins and spider veins can be treated with a technique called sclerotherapy. Dr. Tripathi says that's when material is injected to cause irritation in the vein walls, that then causes the walls to collapse and stick together, "erasing" the vein being visible through the skin.
Treating larger vessels, though, used to mean vein stripping - surgery where the vein was actually removed. But a new technique might make that a thing of the past. It's minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation.
Dr. Tripathi says the procedure involves putting a needle into the vein and inserting a catheter under local anesthesia. RF energy is delivered through the catheter, which causes the vein wall to collapse. Blood flow is then rerouted through healthy veins.
Dr. Tripathi says patients can get up and walk immediately after the procedure. He says pain is minimal and recovery time is short. Dr. Tripathi says he's hopeful knowing an easier option exists will lead more people to get help. Untreated, venous disease can lead to complications such as chronic infections that might require skin grafts.
Dr. Tripathi and doctors Peck, Park and Ghandi offer the procedure at the Cotton-O'Neil Vein Clinic. Contact them for information at (785) 290-VEIN or (866) 508-VEIN.