No Time for Pain

Venous disease-related leg pain relieved with minimally invasive techniques.

Preachers never retire, and neither do preachers’ wives. Mary Jim Campbell has assisted her husband in building churches in many states, including Florida. A few years ago, they returned to Florida and settled in Summerfield. Soon after, they began a new church, where Mary Jim’s husband continues to minister.

Dr. Ravi Sharma of Premier Vein Centers in Homosassa and The Villages treated Mary Jim Campbell for venous insufficiency using three minimally invasive procedures.

Mary Jim Campbell

“As a preacher’s wife, I work with him,” she explains. “When we build churches, I’m right alongside him doing whatever needs to be done. I work to promote him and make his life comfortable because preachers in this day and age deal with a lot of issues.”

Mary Jim had her own issues to deal with, however. For one, she had a bulging varicose vein on her left calf. She’s actually had it for many years, but it never really concerned her. It bulged, but was barely visible because of its location on her leg.

“That vein appeared after a tumbling accident in high school,” she notes. “I had a bulge, but it was on the inside of my leg right about where the muscle is. That one didn’t bother me. I’ve just lived with it since the Fifties.”

While Mary Jim ignored the vein on her left leg, she did become concerned when unsightly veins suddenly began appearing on her right leg. She was self-conscious about the highly visible veins and considered having that leg treated.

“After we moved to Florida, a vein popped out on my right thigh and started crossing over my kneecap,” she confirms. “It was very unsightly. Of course, in Florida I was wearing shorts more, and it felt like everybody was noticing it. I had a little swelling in my legs as well, and some painful leg cramps.

“I’m not really vain, and I’ve lived with the vein on my left leg for many years, but I really felt I needed to take care of the ones on my right leg.”

Mary Jim’s desire to seek treatment for her leg vein issues led her to Ravi Sharma, MD, a board-certified cardiovascular surgeon with expertise in blood vessel disorders of the legs. Dr. Sharma’s practice, Premier Vein Centers, has offices in Homosassa and The Villages.

“I thought I was going in for cosmetic treatment until I had my consultation with Dr. Sharma,” Mary Jim recounts. “He explained that my problem had to do with circulation and that if I didn’t do something about both legs now, I would have major problems down the line. Treatment would eliminate the unsightly veins as well.”

Through the use of ultrasound images, which he obtained after learning of her health history, Dr. Sharma diagnosed Mary Jim with venous insufficiency, a condition marked by leaking veins. Dr. Sharma recommended several procedures to address her condition.

Common Condition

The human circulatory system is composed of an intricate series of blood vessels. 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.

“When the leg veins cannot pump blood back to the heart, it is a condition called venous insufficiency,” describes Dr. Sharma. “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 damaging the valves. Damaged valves prevent proper blood flow back to the heart.”

Venous insufficiency has many signs and symptoms, he adds. Signs are the issues that can be seen, such as bulging varicose veins, swelling, and thickening and discoloration of the skin of the ankles or legs. Symptoms are those things that are felt, not seen. They include throbbing, aching, stinging, burning, itching, nighttime leg cramps and restless legs. These are all indications that the veins are not functioning properly.

“For patients who experience any of these signs or symptoms, it is important that they have their veins assessed,” asserts Dr. Sharma. “Leaving the condition untreated can lead to more serious difficulties, including leg ulcers, infection and a breakdown of the skin.”

The cardiovascular surgeon reports that venous insufficiency is more common than many people think. 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.

“A huge problem in getting venous insufficiency properly treated is that many of its signs and symptoms are invisible and often misunderstood by patients,” observes Dr. Sharma. “One of those symptoms is leg pain. Pain is common with many disorders, so venous insufficiency is often overlooked or misdiagnosed.

“Patients and physicians alike need to understand that vein problems are often present before they are visible on the surface. Symptoms such as pain, heaviness and restless legs can signal vein disease without the corresponding visible varicose veins. With the right diagnosis, a patient’s leg pain can be relieved with simple, minimally invasive techniques.

“When seeking a physician for care, it is crucially important for people to choose surgeons who specialize in venous diseases. They should also be experienced in the advanced procedures available to treat these diseases. Physicians with these qualifications achieve the best outcomes.”

Personalized Options

A full range of advanced, minimally invasive treatment options for addressing varicose and spider veins is available at Premier Vein Centers. These treatment options include microphlebectomy, endovenous laser ablation (EVLA) and sclerosing injections.

Microphlebectomy is used to treat patients with varicose veins. It has replaced stripping, an outdated, more involved procedure in which doctors treated the large veins by making big gashes across the leg that often left the patient with large scars.

“With microphlebectomy, the incision is tiny – about the size of the tip of a scalpel – and we can do much more through that small incision,” Dr. Sharma explains. “And with this procedure, patients end up with tiny marks on the skin or no scars at all.”

During endovenous laser ablation, a sterile laser fiber is introduced into the incompetent vein via a small puncture in the leg. Laser energy is then delivered through the fiber, painlessly closing the vein in less than an hour, using local anesthesia.

Sclerosing injections are used to treat spider veins, which are tiny, dilated blood vessels in the skin that become swollen with stagnant blood. Dr. Sharma uses ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy (UGS) to guide the injections that gently close the problem vessels.

Dr. Sharma uses his expertise to determine which procedures to use based on each patient’s symptoms and health status. These advanced treatments, meanwhile, are all performed in a comfortable office setting and result in little or no downtime and discomfort.

“Our patients are often very relieved to discover that there is no general anesthesia involved in our minimally invasive treatments,” acknowledges Dr. Sharma. “And they’re happy to learn that they can resume activities right away.”

Premier Vein Centers provide a free initial consultation and accept most insurance, including Medicare.

Fascinating Finish

Mary Jim was impressed with Dr. Sharma’s expertise. She was also intrigued with the treatments she received at Premier Vein Centers, where Dr. Sharma addressed her venous insufficiency by employing a trio of procedures.

Dr. Ravi Sharma of Premier Vein Centers in Homosassa and The Villages treated Mary Jim Campbell for venous insufficiency using three minimally invasive procedures.

Mary Jim is no longer concerned about wearing shorts.

“I had laser ablation, microphlebectomy and sclerotherapy, and I was amazed by how little pain was involved,” marvels Mary Jim. “During one procedure, Dr. Sharma actually took out a piece of my vein and showed it to me. It was fascinating.

“To do the vein over my kneecap, he made a small incision in the knee with a scalpel and punctured the skin. There were no stitches with any of the procedures, and you can’t tell at all now that I had anything done to my legs.

“I can’t say enough about the thoroughness and friendliness of Dr. Sharma and his staff,” states Mary Jim. “They told me what they were doing when they did the procedures. There was no fear involved, and I was very comfortable. I felt very confident in what Dr. Sharma was doing.”

Mary Jim credits Dr. Sharma and his staff with making her experiences a positive one. They even let her husband sit in on one of the procedures. She was truly pleased with the ease of the procedures and very happy with the results.

“My legs look and feel fine now,” she relates. “All my bulges and bumps are gone, and there’s no swelling or cramps. I can’t say I ever had beautiful legs, but they sure look a lot better now than they did before I went to Dr. Sharma. My legs look as good as they possibly can for a seventy-eight-year-old woman. I no longer have any concerns whatsoever about wearing shorts.”

According to Mary Jim, the caring, comforting treatment she received in the operating suite is given everywhere at Premier Vein Centers. Because of the inviting atmosphere, Mary Jim says she actually enjoys her visits there, which is not typically the case with her doctor appointments.

“I don’t go to the doctor unless it’s necessary,” she stresses. “But with Premier Vein Centers, I look forward to going there. Dr. Sharma and his staff are friendly and happy. They create a family-type of environment.

“If anyone has varicose veins, I recommend the treatments I had done, and I recommend they go to Dr. Sharma at Premier Vein Centers to get them done. On a scale of one to ten, I give them a ten!”

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    • 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