Varicose Vein Treatment – One Patient’s Recovery From a Venous Ulcer (Part 1)

Little Things Matter

Few people realize how deeply a seemingly small vein can affect overall health. When vein walls weaken or valves fail, resulting complications can not only mar aesthetic appearance but also challenge physical well-being and wreak havoc on quality of life. Many of our tiniest blood vessels are in areas of the body we need and use most and can afford to do without least. Minimally Invasive Image Guided Specialists – MIIGS – and its varicose vein specialists are committed to ensuring that patients regain their lifestyle.

From Emergency Room to MIIGS

Mr. Glenn Papelbon was a prime example of how a seemingly minor problem can become a serious medical issue. While breaks in the skin typically heal within 1 or 2 weeks, he’d been suffering with a venous ulcer on his left foot for months. The wound remained open, was unable to heal and proved particularly painful at night. A desperate emergency room visit quickly became an appointment with a wound specialist, who immediately referred Mr. Papelbon to MIIGS. 

Next-Day Appointment for a Venous Ulcer

MIIGS staff scheduled Mr. Papelbon for a next-day appointment with varicose vein specialist Dr. Christian Scheuermann. When Dr. Scheuermann examined Mr. Papelbon, he recognized his newest patient’s venous ulcer as a condition he has treated many times before at MIIGS. These non-healing wounds often:

  • Are on the lower leg, ankle or foot.
  • Are sunken and asymmetrical.
  • Have clearly defined edges.
  • Have surrounding skin that is intact but inflamed, tight, shiny and swollen.
  • Have surrounding skin that is discolored or pigmented.
  • Seep yellowish or greenish fluid due to infection.
  • Itch and sometimes burn.
  • Are painful, particularly while standing and at night.
  • Refuse to heal.
  • Have surrounding or associated varicose veins.

Varicose Veins Cause of Venous Ulcer

Dr. Scheuermann confirmed that varicose veins were the source of Mr. Papelbon’s non-healing venous ulcer. Varicose veins affect half of all people 50 or older, and both men and women experience them. Venous disease – faulty or weakened veins – account for 80 percent of all venous ulcers. Fifteen percent are due to arterial disease, and medical conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis account for the other five.

Identifying the Underlying Cause

Treating venous ulcers successfully is a two stage process. The ulcer needs to heal, but for that to happen, varicose vein specialists must address the underlying cause – poor circulation. In most cases, venous ulcers develop from inside the body and manifest as a break in the skin that refuses to heal because:

  • Valves or vessel walls have weakened and cannot return de-oxygenated blood back to the heart.
  • Pressure within the blood vessels traps blood. Some studies indicate that the buildup of white blood cells further depletes available oxygen, and as more tissue damage occurs, more white blood cells try to attack the situation, depleting oxygen and tissues further.
  • Other studies indicate that pressure causes capillary beds to distend, allowing fibrinogen – a clotting blood protein – to leak into surrounding tissue. This eventually forms a “fibrinous cuff” that restricts nutrients to tissue. The resulting fibrosis results in an ulcer.

With the root cause identified, effective treatment for both his ulcer and vascular insufficiency can now begin.  Follow Mr. Papelbon’s road to recovery in next month’s blog where we’ll discuss treatment options and his personal post-op experience at MIIGS, Central Louisiana’s only interventional radiology clinic. If you or someone you know exhibits symptoms similar to Mr.Papelbon, please contact MIIGS at 318.528.7560 or submit an online form today to schedule a consultation with one of our vein specialists.