Tuesday, July 15, 2008

varicose veins: cosmetic or catastrophic?

As I blogged previously, I had to visit the doctor yesterday to get the varicose veins in my left calf looked at by a professional.

I needed the doc to take a look before I plunked down even more registration fees for the events I want to do later this season (triathlons, half marathons, etc) on the off-chance that I'd be sidelined by a corrective procedure.

Little did I know my insurance would render my concerns moot.

I experienced a moment of sheer joy watching the computer-based records system ask "Are you sure?" when the nurse tried inputting my weight (189 lbs fully clothed), as the last time I'd seen the doc, in April 2007, I weighed a meaty 223 pounds. Yes, I've lost some weight!

Aside from that, however, I have to admit I'm none too pleased at the appointment.

My doc took a look at my left calf and examined it tactilely in comparison to my right calf and confirmed what I suspected: the bulging veins on my left calf are abnormal. But they're abnormal to the point that I heard him tsk as he found the veins all over the back of my calf as well as starting to pop up on the front of my leg.

When I asked if there was anything to be concerned about, he replied he needed to consult his colleagues to see who'd be best at taking the problem from here and left the examination room.

When he returned, he informed me that the next group who should see me are the vascular surgery team, but my (HMO) insurance wouldn't cover their procedure.

Long story short: if I want to take care of the problem, I'll have to pay out of pocket. If I'd rather just manage the problem (keep it from getting worse), it's simply a matter of wearing a compression sock 24 hours per day, indefinitely.


Given the predicament (rather: my refusal to pay out of pocket for corrective surgery), I peppered my doc with questions:

  • If I start training harder to complete a 70.3 race, will I endanger my health? no
  • Do I need be concerned a clot will develop that might be fatal? no
  • Will I find myself collapsing due to these varicose veins while training/racing? no
  • Is there anything I can do to keep this from getting worse? yes: wear compression socks
  • Is there anything I can do to make this better? yes: get surgery
  • What will it take to get my insurance to pay for the procedure? wear compression sock for six months or develop pain in the calf from the veins
So, now I'm wearing the compression sock (20-30 mg Hg) and paying close attention to whether or not I experience pain in the area.

And I'm studying up on varicose veins, too.

We'll see how long it takes before my calf starts to hurt.


twinga said...

Jeeez, this reminds me of the movie "Sicko" I finally saw on DVD two days ago. You should make a trip to some country where they do this surgery for free or at little cost. Seriously...

Michelle said...

Oh, I think I see it hurting now!

Take care :)

Thom said...

I think I recall you claiming pain in the lef tcalf at the Turkey Trot last fall. Was that just my creative imagination?