Health and Fitness

Varicose veins? ‘Zap ’em!’

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Lori Zeisler knew that varicose veins ran in her family. But hers showed up early – and they hurt.

They first appeared when she was pregnant with her son, who is now 20.

"It started with a few inches, and I didn’t think much of it," she said.

The varicose veins got worse when she was pregnant with her daughter, who is now 16.

"It never went away after that," she said. "I just thought it was the price to pay for two children."

Over the years, the pain increased and rendered her less and less mobile.

Last year, the pain got bad enough to prevent her from walking for anything other than essentials.

Pain also came from swollen ankles caused by blood pooling near her feet.

Support hosiery seemed worse than the condition – uncomfortably tight and a struggle to get on or off.

Another fear, she said, was that one of the varicose veins in her leg was dangerously positioned to send a blood clot to her heart. explains that veins have valves that prevent blood from backing up. When the valves fail, blood pools, veins enlarge and appear as dark blue and purple protrusions underneath the skin.

The condition is most common in the lower body, in people over 50 and among women.

Spider veins and hemorrhoids are other forms varicose veins.

About half of all Americans will get some degree of varicose veins over a lifetime. They can be painful or simply unsightly. The causes vary: family traits, standing a lot at work, pregnancy; sometimes there’s no way to tell.

While searching the Internet for alternatives, she found Dr. Raffi Kirkorian, a cardiologist in south St. Louis County who specializes in vein diseases.

Zeisler had discovered a remedy online called VNUS closure, named for the company that sold the equipment.

After one conversation, she said, he fixed the problem on a Saturday last summer.

"He zapped ’em," Zeisler said.

"Zap" is actually pretty accurate. Kirkorian guided what ostensibly is a catheter ray gun into Zeisler’s veins. It shoots hot radio waves into the vessels, sealing them so they disappear.

"Other blood vessels take over," Kirkorian said.

Zeisler said, "The only thing I felt was the first insertion," of the instrument.

Kirkorian said that in a small number of cases, the veins can open again.

"But that’s very uncommon," he said.

For more extreme cases, the catheter can carry a laser gun, which generates higher temperatures, Kirkorian said.

Zeisler says her life is back to normal.

"I just want people to know there’s nothing to fear," she said. "You don’t have to live with" varicose veins.

Now, she walks on the treadmill the equivalent of a mile and a half a day. She’s mobile again.

"And I can wear my capri pants," she said.

(c) 2010, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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