Five Questions to Help You Choose the Right Doctor for Your Varicose Veins
Varicose veins aren’t just your grandmother’s affliction. In fact, they are big business for a wide variety of medical specialists ranging from vascular surgeons to dermatologists. If you are one of the estimated 25 million Americans affected by varicose veins, and don’t want to live with your grandmother’s legs, how do you choose the “right” specialist?
A few things to consider before you choose your vein physician:
Vein care is not a “medical specialty” in the traditional sense, taught in medical schools as is the case with allergists, dermatologists and most other specialties. As a result, physicians from many backgrounds have gained the training, credibility and results to make vein treatment a key part of their practice.
You can’t go searching for a “veinologist” to treat your varicose veins. Instead, when you start researching – asking for referrals or looking on the internet – you are going to find a wide range of specialists who treat varicose veins. These include vascular surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, radiologists and general surgeons. What is most important is that you find a physician who can diagnose and properly treat your specific venous condition – and that he or she has a demonstrated track record of success.
With this in mind, start with the following five steps to choose the right physician to treat your varicose veins:
1. Do a brief self-exam: Take a moment to examine your vein condition - it may help you narrow your choices for the right physician. Do you have large, wavy veins bulging on your legs? Or do you have tiny red or blue spider-shaped veins on your thighs, calves or ankles? Spider veins are often a cosmetic issue that can be treated by a dermatologist using sclerotherapy (where a chemical “sclerosing” agent is injected into the veins, causing them to collapse and essentially disappear.) For larger varicose veins, you may wish to seek a credentialed vein expert who can offer multiple treatment options including endovenous ablation, a technology-driven treatment using laser heat or radiofrequency to heat the vein, causing it to collapse. (Also know as EVLT or VNUS procedure). Phlebectomy, or microsurgery of veins, is another option.
2. Look for medical credentials with professional organizations: Look for physicians who are board certified in Phlebology (the study of veins and venous diseases and disorders) by the American Board of Phlebology (www.americanboardofphlebology.org). Physicians with this credential will state in their bio that they are an “ABPh diplomate.” You can also use the search feature on this site to find board certified phlebologists in your local area. Physicians who have the credential of FACPh are Fellows of the American College of Phlebology (www.phlebology.org), the premier professional association for vein physicians and other health professionals involved in the treatment of venous disease.
3. Research physician web sites: Most physicians who treat vein disorders have a web site to help reach out to potential patients and promote their practice. Click on their bio and you will find their credentials, experience and training. Some physician websites also post “before” and “after” pictures. Look at the types of patients and the results. Are they exhibiting large, bulging veins? Spider veins? Finally, take a few more minutes to review the types of vein treatments offered. Is it a full spectrum of treatments or is sclerotherapy the only option? Some practices are also offering a new option that treats tiny facial spider-type veins with technology that “microwaves” these veins and makes them disappear. You can use the physician locator at Veinwave (www.veinwave.com) to find a physician in your area who offers this new treatment.
4. Take advantage of free consultations: As with any medical condition, you want to be treated by someone that you both like and trust. Many vein physicians offer complimentary consultations to examine your veins, suggest a course of treatment and let you know the timing and cost involved. Get two or more consultations; opt for the physician whose treatment options and expertise meet your needs. And if the physician is recommending sclerotherapy for spider veins, make sure you ask how many treatments are likely to be needed, the total cost, and the likelihood that the therapy will be reimbursed by your health insurer.
5. Check for happy patients: Web site testimonials are great, but they can appear staged and less than authentic. Before you select your vein physician, ask for some references from satisfied patients. Some practices may be reluctant due to health privacy regulations but many physicians focused on elective or cosmetic procedures (vein treatments included) will provide references on request. Speak to several and see if they are happy with their results. This is the type of information that can help sway you between one practice and another.
In the world of varicose veins, there are a multitude of physicians and options for treatment. You can benefit from the best care by doing your homework before you schedule your first appointment. With upfront legwork, you will reap the ultimate reward – nicer legs and lasting results from a vein physician you trust.
American Board of Phlebology: www.americanboardofphlebology.org
American College of Phlebology: www.phlebology.org