The Unfriendly Skies

Reduced air pressure complicates vein disease.

native of Brazil, Maryse Davis moved to the United States in 1977 and became a US citizen. She’s the mother of three children, now adults, and has been working as a flight attendant for 18 years. Both jobs are physically demanding, but her work for the airline is especially taxing on her legs.

Douglas H. Joyce, DO, at Joyce Vein & Aesthetic Institute in Punta Gorda, treated Maryse Davis’ severe leg pain due to venous disease with his single-needle ablation technique.

The vein treatments have Maryse feeling like a new person.

“I speak five languages, so my company uses me mostly for international flights, which keeps me on my feet a long time,” she says. “Depending on the destination, a flight can be anywhere from eight to eleven hours long, and it’s fourteen hours if we’re going to China.

“About four years ago, I started to feel pain in my legs. Eventually, they started swelling as well and became very fatigued. Over time, the pain only got worse until it was really bad. On a scale of one to ten, I’d have to say it was a ten, but it actually felt more like a twelve or thirteen.”

By the beginning of this year, the pain in Maryse’s legs was interfering with her leisure activities, and she was struggling to get through her flights. At certain times she had to give in and sit down, which bothered her. 

“I love to swim and walk around the neighborhood and at the beach, but it got so I couldn’t do those things anymore,” she shares.  “At work, there were many things going on and many fires to put out, and I always put everybody else’s needs ahead of my own. So many people depended on me, so I tried to take care of things and stick it out through the pain.

“Finally, I was in so much pain, I told my husband I couldn’t work like this. I’m a very responsible person, and it’s important to me that I earn the money the company pays me. I went to my primary doctor, and he recommended I see a doctor who specializes in veins.”

Maryse’s husband went to the internet to search for a qualified physician and found the website of Douglas H. Joyce, DO, of Joyce Vein & Aesthetic Institute in Punta Gorda. Dr. Joyce is a skilled vein specialist who combines compassion and expertise to treat patients with venous disease. Fortunately, Dr. Joyce was able to see Maryse right away.

During Maryse’s initial appointment, Dr. Joyce described how there are two systems of veins in the legs. There are the high-pressure, deep veins in the middle of the leg, and the low-pressure, superficial veins near the surface of the skin.

“Valves in the deep veins are designed to close tightly to keep blood flowing toward the heart,” informs Dr. Joyce. “When these valves are not working properly, pressure eventually builds up in the superficial veins. This pressure is what led to Maryse’s symptoms of leg pain,
swelling and fatigue.”

“At my consultation, Dr. Joyce ordered an ultrasound then explained everything he found,” recalls Maryse. “The valves in my legs were failing, and that’s why it was getting so painful for me to walk. He then created a plan to work on the issues in my legs, starting with my right leg, which was the worst of the two.”

The Perfect Storm

“Maryse’s job requires a great deal of standing, walking and exertion when pushing a cart up the aisle of the airplane,” notes Dr. Joyce. “What’s more, she does all this activity while exposed to reduced pressure, because the cabin pressure in the plane is twenty to thirty percent lower than the pressure on the ground.

“This combination of factors makes for a perfect storm when it comes to the development and progression of venous disease and its symptoms.”

Pressure in the airplane makes a significant impact on venous disease. Even people with mild disease can experience intensification of symptoms after a long flight. They may get off the plane and find veins protruding on their legs that weren’t there previously, discover their legs are suddenly extremely swollen or notice an increase in leg pain.

“The reduced pressure environment in the plane exacerbates the pressure inside the leg veins,” explains Dr. Joyce. “Pressure in the leg veins results from blood pushing against the normal flow from high-pressure deep veins into low-pressure superficial veins. Low pressure on the outside aids this high-to-low pressure movement.

“Under these conditions, venous disease can progress more rapidly than it does under normal pressure, leading to increased pain and other symptoms. People who have venous disease should wear compression stockings every time they fly. That’s because the compression helps counteract the effect of reduced outside air pressure on the leg veins.”

Dr. Joyce is a pioneer in treating all the causes of venous disease of the leg. He has even developed several treatment techniques, including single-needle laser ablation. This procedure is a noninvasive method of sealing the diseased veins responsible for advanced venous conditions. He used this procedure to treat the venous disease in Maryse’s right leg.

“Dr. Joyce is a godsend. He’s my hero. He took all that pain away from me, and I’m so very grateful!” – Maryse

“The procedure itself takes only about ten minutes because Dr. Joyce uses the latest technology, for which I’m very grateful,” comments Maryse. “When it came time to do the surgery, Dr. Joyce gave me his total attention. It didn’t matter what was going on around us. He made me feel like the most important person in the room.”

Feeling Young Again

Dr. Joyce has completed treatment on Maryse’s right leg, which had more extensive disease than her left leg, and is now treating her left leg. For Maryse, however, the relief she feels in her right leg has been life changing.

“Now that my right leg is done, I can actually walk fast, although I can’t run yet,” she reports. “My right leg feels so much lighter since Dr. Joyce performed the procedures. I forgot what it was like before all the pain and swelling. Now, I feel like a new person. I feel young again.”

Without the disabling pain in her leg, Maryse has returned to her favorite leisure activities, including walking on the beach. She also finds it much easier to work through those long, international flights.

“I can put all my weight on my right leg, so I can walk and do my job with no problem,” she enthuses. “I still wear compression hose all the time, especially when I’m working.”

Maryse is happy her husband found Dr. Joyce and Joyce Vein & Aesthetic Institute. She credits Dr. Joyce for discovering her condition and relieving the overwhelming pain she suffered because of it. She offers some sage advice for others battling the symptoms of pain, swelling and fatigue in their legs.

“When Dr. Joyce told me I had vein disease, I learned it affects blood circulation, so it’s very serious business,” Maryse relates. “That’s why it’s very important for anyone looking for treatment to go to a specialist in vein disease. It’s essential to find a doctor who’s very competent, and Dr. Joyce is.

“Dr. Joyce is a godsend. He’s my hero. He took all that pain away from me, and I’m so very grateful!”

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