Standing Ovation

Minimally invasive procedures eliminate retired teacher’s spider veins, leg cramps.

For Catherine Chamblin, teaching is a family tradition.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Catherine Chamblin

“Teaching goes way back in my family,” Catherine, 63, confirms. “My great-grandfather was a teacher and principal as well as a superintendent in the Florida school system. My mom, aunt and grandmother were all teachers.

“I kept the tradition going. I was a teacher in Citrus County for 33 years. I retired in 2016. I taught elementary school, mainly kindergarten. My favorite thing about teaching young children was the way they responded to new learning.”

Yet, teaching wasn’t Catherine’s first career choice.

“When I was in high school, I worked for a tennis pro and played in many tennis tournaments,” Catherine relates. “I wanted to become a tennis instructor, but my dad put his foot down. He said, You’re going to do something worthwhile, meaning go to college. I did what he said. I went to college and got a degree. But I don’t regret it. I had many good years in teaching.”

As a kindergarten teacher, Catherine stood all day on a hard floor with nothing but a thin rug between the concrete and her feet. As a result, she developed unsightly spider veins in her legs. Spider veins are tiny, dilated blood vessels in the skin that become swollen with stagnant blood.

“The spider veins appeared when I was in my 30s,” Catherine recalls. “My genetics didn’t help. My mom had varicose veins, and spider veins are a precursor to varicose veins. Standing on concrete eight hours a day for 33 years just added insult to injury.

“My spider veins were primarily a cosmetic concern. I have my own pool where I wore a bathing suit, but I wouldn’t wear a bathing suit or shorts in public. I also experienced pain in my legs. Sometimes, the leg cramps were so horrible at night that I couldn’t sleep.

“Ten years ago, I read about Dr. Sharma in various magazines and newspapers, and also in Florida Health Care News. I cut out the articles and saved them. My plan was to go to Dr. Sharma when I was ready to do something about my veins because he’s so qualified to treat them. I waited until I finished my teaching career, then visited him.”

Ravi Sharma, MD, is a board-certified cardiovascular surgeon with expertise in blood vessel disorders affecting the legs. His practice is Premier Vein Centers, which has offices in Homosassa and The Villages®.

Immediately, Dr. Sharma ordered an ultrasound of Catherine’s legs. It showed a number of veins were leaking and not enabling proper blood flow back toward her heart. This condition is called venous insufficiency, and it was the cause of Catherine’s spider veins and leg cramps.

Dysfunctional Veins

“Venous insufficiency occurs when deep leg veins, which lie in groups of muscles, cannot pump blood back to the heart,” Dr. Sharma explains. “Chronic venous insufficiency 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. 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 felt. They include throbbing, aching, stinging, burning, itching, nighttime leg cramps and restless legs. These signs and symptoms are indications that the veins are not functioning properly.

“I no longer have the leg cramps at night, so I can sleep. And without the spider veins, I can wear a bathing suit with pride.” – Catherine

“It is extremely important that patients experiencing any of these signs and symptoms have their leg veins assessed,” Dr. Sharma stresses. “Leaving the condition untreated can lead to more serious complications, including leg ulcers, infection and a breakdown of the skin.

“When seeking a physician for care, it is crucially important for people to choose surgeons who specialize in venous diseases and only venous diseases. I recommend staying away from physicians in large practices that offer a wide variety of services who perform venous treatment as a side service.

“The physicians people choose should also be experienced in the advanced procedures available to treat venous diseases. In addition, they must also express genuine concern and compassion for their patients. Physicians with these qualifications achieve the best outcomes.”

Catherine found all those qualities in Dr. Sharma.

“Dr. Sharma is very patient,” Catherine describes. “When I met with him, he listened to me and answered all of my questions, and I had a list of them. He wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what he was going to do and what to expect. He’s very compassionate and attentive as well. He made me feel like I was the only person there.”

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), sclerosing injections and VenaSeal.

Microphlebectomy has replaced vein stripping, the outdated, more invasive procedure during which doctors removed 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 observes. “And with this procedure, patients end up with tiny marks on the skin or no scars at all.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Following her vein Treatments, Catherine shows her legs with confidence.

During EVLA, 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. Dr. Sharma uses ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy (UGS) to guide the injections that gently close the problem vessels.

VenaSeal is a non-thermal closure system that relieves symptoms by delivering small amounts of a specially formulated medical adhesive, or “super glue,” to the diseased vein. This permanently seals the vein. This procedure does not require multiple needle sticks and, in some cases, support stockings are not necessary.

Dr. Sharma uses his expertise to determine which procedures will work best based on each patient’s symptoms and health status. These advanced treatments 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,” Dr. Sharma relates. “And they are happy to learn that they can resume activities right away.”

Premier Vein Centers provides a free initial consultation and accepts most insurance, including Medicare.

Updated Wardrobe

To address Catherine’s leg cramps, Dr. Sharma used EVLA on the deep veins in her legs that were leaking. He treated her spider veins with UGS. Catherine is extremely happy with the outcome of these procedures.

“Even without an anesthetic, there is minimal pain involved with the Neo treatment, and it requires little downtime.” – Dr. Sharma

“I’m very pleased with my results and with how my legs look and feel now,” she enthuses. “I love to exercise, and now I can exercise pain-free. I no longer have the leg cramps at night, so I can sleep. And without the spider veins, I can wear a bathing suit with pride. I can wear dresses, skirts and shorts if I want as well.

“Getting treated by Dr. Sharma at Premier Vein Centers was a very worthwhile thing to do. I’m so glad I did it.”

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