Choose Wisely

With vein disease, pick a surgeon who is specialized and experienced.

Claudia Campbell has always loved to dance. These days, the Long Island native often performs tribal belly dancing with the local group, DanceCraft. With dancing as a passion, it was more than inconvenient that her legs were unhealthy and painful. Sometimes, she was even forced off her feet to reduce her discomfort.

Photos by Jordan Pysz.

As a dancer, Claudia is
especially happy to now have healthy,
attractive legs.

“For years, I had issues with burning and pain in the veins in both legs,” discloses Claudia. “It was an itchy, burning feeling. It felt almost like acid running through my veins.
“There was also swelling in the areas where the veins were, but some of that was relieved if I put my feet up at the end of the day. I had some heaviness in my legs as well, and occasionally got charley horses that were pretty painful.”
In the past, people told Claudia the only treatment for her excruciating varicose veins was a procedure called vein stripping. During this procedure, the doctor makes large incisions in the legs and forcibly removes the problem veins.
“I was told that procedure was painful, and recovery from it was a very long process,” she notes. “I like being out in the nice weather, enjoying time with my family and running around with my grandkids. I didn’t want to be restricted from that, especially not knowing how long it would take me to recover. I decided to wait on treatment.”
The longer Claudia waited, however, the more she wanted to take care of her vein problems. The varicose veins on her legs were not only uncomfortable, they were also unsightly.
“There were bulging veins on both legs but especially on my left leg, and I was conscious of the way they looked,” she shares. “Many people might not notice them, but I noticed them. I thought maybe someday I can get them fixed. It would be awfully good to not have the pain, swelling and other symptoms.
“Last year, I went to my dermatologist for a check-up and talked to him about my legs. He said he could recommend someone to me. It was Dr. Ravi Sharma at Premier Vein Centers. In November 2016, I gave Premier Vein Centers a call and went in for a consult.”
The dermatologist recommended board-certified cardiovascular surgeon Ravi Sharma, MD. As a cardiovascular specialist who has spent years performing intricate heart and blood vessel procedures, Dr. Sharma has expertise in vein disease and other vascular disorders. He’s also experienced at clearly communicating with patients, which impressed Claudia.
“Dr. Sharma was delightful and very professional,” she describes. “He was kind and explained everything to the smallest detail.
“First, he suggested I wear compression stockings for a period of time. When I went back to see him, he took pictures of my legs and performed an ultrasound to look at the veins inside. He said if I don’t take care of my leg vein issue, it’ll become a bigger problem. I got my first treatment in March of this year.”
Dr. Sharma used several advanced tools to treat Claudia’s venous condition, including a laser that seals the larger, leaking veins using heat energy. He then removed several diseased veins, not by stripping, but through micro incisions that heal quickly. He is still working to eliminate Claudia’s smaller, spider veins using a series of injections.
“Dr. Sharma explained that he must first take care of the trunk of the tree, where most of the problem is located,” recalls Claudia. “Then, he goes down to the limbs, then down to the branches, then down to the twigs and then down to the leaves. If he skips any step, I won’t get the full benefit for my vein system to work optimally.
“It’s like bringing a car to a mechanic and saying, I only want you to do this but not that. You don’t really fix the problem. Getting rid of varicose veins is not a quick fix. It takes time, but it took time for those veins to get there.”

Blood Vessel Function

An intricate series of blood vessels makes up the human circulatory system. Veins are the blood vessels that return oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. There are three types of veins: superficial veins, deep veins and perforating veins. Superficial veins lie close to the skin, deep veins lie in groups of muscles, and perforating veins connect the superficial veins to the deep veins.
Graphic from istockphoto.com.When the leg veins cannot pump blood back to the heart, it is a condition called venous insufficiency. Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) has multiple causes. Over long periods of sitting or standing, the blood in leg veins can pool. This increases the venous blood pressure and weakens the vein walls and valves, thereby causing damage to the valves. Damaged valves prevent proper blood flow back to the heart.
There are many signs and symptoms of venous insufficiency, including bulging varicose veins, swollen legs, aching, stinging, burning, itching, nighttime leg cramps, restless legs and/or thickening and discoloration of the skin of the ankles or legs. These are all indications that the veins are not functioning properly.
“It is important that patients who experience any of these symptoms have their veins assessed,” stresses Dr. Sharma. “Leaving the condition untreated can lead to more serious difficulties, including leg ulcers, infection and a breakdown of the skin.”
Venous insufficiency is more common than many people think, reports the cardiovascular surgeon. It is estimated that more than 30 million Americans suffer with symptomatic venous insufficiency. Venous vascular disease is five times as prevalent as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, and more than two times as prevalent as coronary artery disease.
“The symptoms of venous insufficiency are often missed and the disorder misdiagnosed by physicians who are not familiar with venous disorders,” observes Dr. Sharma. “There are also some providers offering vein treatments who are not appropriately educated and trained.
“When seeking a physician for care, it’s crucially important for patients to choose surgeons who specialize in venous diseases and are experienced in the advanced procedures available to treat them. Physicians with these qualifications achieve the best outcomes.”

Progressive Treatments

A full range of advanced, minimally invasive treatment options for addressing varicose and spider veins are offered at Premier Vein Centers. These advanced treatments are performed in a comfortable office setting with little to no downtime or discomfort, resulting in a quick recovery and long-term results.
“Microphlebectomy is used to treat varicose veins using very tiny incisions to remove the veins, versus a stripping, which was a much bigger ordeal,” informs Dr. Sharma. “We use microphlebectomy in patients who have symptomatic, large veins in the leg.

“Dr. Sharma is a professional and an expert at what he does.” – Claudia

“With this procedure, the incision is tiny – about the size of the tip of a scalpel – and we can do much more through the small incision. In the old days, doctors made big gashes across the leg, and they were very ugly and people would have large scars. With this procedure, patients end up with tiny marks on the skin or no scars at all.”
According to Dr. Sharma, there are several other options available to treat venous insufficiency. He determines which procedures to use based on each patient’s symptoms and health status.
Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA) introduces a sterile laser fiber into the incompetent vein via a small puncture in the leg. Laser energy is delivered through this fiber, painlessly closing the vein in less than an hour, using local anesthesia.
Tiny, dilated blood vessels in the skin that become swollen with stagnant blood, called spider veins, can be treated with sclerosing injections to gently close the problem vessels.
Dr. Sharma uses ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy (UGS) to image the vein and guide his injections.
“Our patients are so relieved to discover there is no general anesthesia involved in our minimally invasive treatments, and they can resume activities right away,” adds the surgeon.
Premier Vein Centers provide a free initial consultation and accept most insurance, including Medicare.

Excellent Advice

Dr. Sharma is still performing injection therapy on some of Claudia’s smaller veins, but she’s pleased with the results of her treatment thus far. She’s excited because she knows when the doctor completes his injections, the appearance of her legs will improve even more.

Photos by Jordan Pysz.

Claudia Campbell

“My legs look much, much better now,” she enthuses. “It’ll take a while for the veins to totally disappear; they didn’t get there overnight. Still, they look a lot better than they did. I don’t have any bulges on my legs, even my left leg. Those are all smooth now. There’s no pain, and I don’t have any issues with burning.”
Claudia is glad she took her dermatologist’s advice and made an appointment with
Dr. Sharma at Premier Vein Centers. She firmly believes selecting a surgeon who specializes in vascular disorders and has extensive expertise is important to achieving the best results from treatment. It was definitely true in her case.
“It’s absolutely imperative for the surgeon to have all the knowledge to do the procedures,” says Claudia. “People go to the doctor to get better, and the more knowledge the doctor has about the conditions they’re treating their patients for, the better it is for the patients to understand and recover. The experience I had with Dr. Sharma was excellent.
“I felt very comfortable with Dr. Sharma doing my vein procedures. Dr. Sharma is a professional and an expert at what he does. He explained everything I would experience, and that’s pretty much exactly what I got!”

Print This Article
    • Premier Vein Centers

      Many people inherit vein disorders. The incidence is higher in women than men. In the United States, nearly 50 percent of the adult population suffers from painful and unsightly vein diseases. The most common forms are spider veins and va... Read More

    • Ravi Sharma, MD

      Ravi Sharma, MD, is board certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland at College Park and attended the University of Maryland Graduate School, Baltimore, before r... Read More