Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Hate You, Spider Veins

Spider veins is a topic that's not very interesting & pretty gross, but I feel like I need to document my current plan of attack on them. I had sclerotherapy several years ago & failed to write down my experiences, which would be helpful now.

I first noticed the appearance of these ugly veins in 9th or 10th grade. I didn't wear shorts or skirts much & the spot that continues to plague me is on the inside of my right calf, just below the knee. I became self-conscious about them when someone in my PE class pointed out that I had "ink" on my leg. After that it was years of hiding under long pants & frequenting tanning beds to mask their appearance on my pale skin. (I no longer tan, by the way.) Throughout high school & college I wore support hose while I worked in a restaurant to try to get the veins under control. Genetics & time were against me & they became worse. Not as bad as some of the cases that you see when you visit vein specialists' websites, but bad enough to cause me significant emotional distress. See, I have some pretty serious body image issues & every little imperfection is magnified by 10 in my eyes.

Fast-forward to about 5 years ago when I decided to seek treatment for the condition. There were no doctors in my city but I found a clinic in Greensboro, which is about an hour's drive from home. I don't remember all the details of getting treated for spider veins at that time, but I do recall going in for a consultation which was just a doctor looking at my legs & then scheduling my first sclerotherapy appointment. That was pretty simple. Of course my insurance company decided that my treatments were cosmetic, despite the fact that in some places the veins were very tender & anything bumping against them was pretty painful. I did what I felt was necessary for my physical & mental health at that time & put the treatments on a credit card. At $350 per appointment (I ended up with between 6-9 treatments), that was pretty painful to my pocketbook. I don't remember the treatments being very difficult. There were plenty of injections in my legs each time, which I refused to watch because I have a "thing" about needles. There were little red spots from the injection sites & some of the larger veins became hard & brownish initially, which is normal. Once I was done, I felt a lot better about my legs even though they weren't perfect. The veiny area on my leg that I referred to earlier was lighter, but still visible.

Of course sclerotherapy isn't a permanent fix. As the years went on the veins started to reappear along with some new ones & a few months ago I noticed that my problem vein hurts more. I decided to seek treatment again, but the clinic that I had been to before has closed. There are franchise offices in other towns further away, but I decided to try a new clinic, also in Greensboro. I had my consultation two weeks ago. The doctor did a Dopler test on my leg & told me that there appeared to be some reflux in my right leg, signaling that something isn't working the way it should be working. Instead of discussing a plan of action he scheduled me for an ultrasound the following week & wrote me a prescription for compression stockings. I was very disappointed. I wanted to go ahead & start treatment during spring break & hopefully be able to bear the sight of myself in a bathing suit or shorts this summer. Plus, each visit was a $20 co-pay for me. The doctor also discussed insurance & how they would be more likely to cover treatment if I had the compression stockings & further testing.

Buying the compression stockings was traumatic. I had to get them from a medical supply store, surrounded by walkers & other equipment used by very sick or elderly people. Mid-life crisis time. Also, one pair was $82. I tried to wear them the next day & almost pulled a muscle trying to get them on. That's a true story. The bands around my thighs were so tight & itchy that I had taken them off by lunchtime. They were quite a bit thicker than normal support hose, but the discomfort they were causing was too much to deal with. I don't see myself wearing them when the temperatures get warmer either.

By the time I went for the ultrasound I got a statement letting me know that the consultation was $400. I really hope insurance covers this. The ultrasound was much more intense than I thought it'd be. The squeezing on my legs by the nurse while I was standing combined with the gross thought of blood, the whooshing sound of the machine, & the images on the three screens facing me was too much. Twice we had to stop so I could lay down to avoid passing out. I've never broken such a sweat & felt so dizzy doing nothing at all. Another disappointment came when I went to schedule yet another appointment to discuss the US results. The earliest the doctor could see me was over a month away, which seemed ridiculous to me. I didn't have my work calendar with me with all of my IEP meeting appointments, the SOL schedule, & the exam schedule so I have to call back to make my appointment. And that's where I'm at right now. It doesn't look like I'm going to be wearing any skirts this summer if we don't get started soon.

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