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Read Susan's Journey with Varicose Veins

by -

Susan Weber feeds hay to buttercup cow

Varicose veins affect 30 million Americans, including one in four  adults, primarily women. While some people may view them as largely a cosmetic concern, varicose veins can cause pain, restrict activity, or even lead to more serious health problems. This often painful condition develops when blood pools in the veins, stretching and twisting them.

Susan Weber leads an active life that includes four children. In their spare time, Susan enjoy quilting, volunteering on community committees, photographing farm life and spending time with her husband and four children.

For Susan, varicose veins were more than just a cosmetic issue, the pain and swelling were horrible. She first noticed her varicose veins after having a child 24 years ago and, with the birth of each of her next three children, they became worse.

She says, “I had bumpy varicose veins on the back of both legs. The left side worse than the right, with swelling and pain. The veins were really bad for 10 years before I sought treatment. I brought up the issue with my primary care physician and we determined a vein assessment would be appropriate.”

“Varicose veins are actually symptoms of vein disease, or venous insufficiency,” explains Dr. Richard Kettelkamp, UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids Cardiology Clinic. “Your veins aren’t carrying blood back to the heart the way they should and the blood ends up pooling in the veins. For some people it’s not a problem, but for others, venous insufficiency causes pain, swelling, heaviness in the legs, or burning or itching sensations.”

Susan scheduled an appointment with the St. Luke’s Cardiology Vein Clinic. “I chose the cardiology clinic because of the knowledge base of the physicians. The vein clinic is well-established and they specialize in these procedures.”

At the initial appointment the cardiologist assessed the blood flow and swelling in both legs and thoroughly discussed treatment options.

 Richard Kettelkamp, MD

 Richard Kettelkamp, MD

The Vein Clinic offers a comprehensive, non-surgical approach to venous insufficiency. “We always start with non-invasive treatment,” says Dr. Kettelkamp. “There are many things patients can also do themselves such as going for walks is good, weight loss can be effective, stop smoking, elevate your legs whenever possible, and wear compression stockings.”

If self-care does not provide relief, Vein Clinic doctors use sclerotherapy or ablation treatment to seal off the affected vein, routing blood flow to other, healthier veins. Both procedures are performed in the office and patients can return to their normal activities the same or next day.

Susan had procedures on veins in both legs during two separate appointments about four weeks apart. The cardiologist used a laser to cauterize the vein and pull the bad part out. She had slight discomfort after the procedure but was back to normal activities the next day.

For Susan, the treatment changed everything within her life. 

“The team was amazing “They took the time to get to know me and my condition and explain my treatment options. They really put my mind at ease by taking the time to get to know me and my condition, explaining my treatment options and every part of the procedure. The treatment was so simple, I wish I had done it sooner. About six to eight months after the treatment, I had new legs, they didn’t hurt, they didn’t ache, they didn’t throb, they didn’t itch. 

Today, she says, "I would highly encourage anyone with varicose veins to have an assessment and talk through the options and benefits. Varicose veins don’t just get better. There’s more physical symptoms caused by varicose veins than just pain and swelling. After the surgery, you feel healthier and less tired. One of the benefits is increased blood flow. I could tell an extreme difference within six months. I felt healthier and less tired. The leg pain is almost completely gone and visually it looks awesome!”

To schedule an appointment with the Vein Clinic, call (319) 739-2036 or (800) 982-1959.

Should I see a vein specialist?

Take this assessment to determine if you should talk to a vein specialist. UnityPoint Health Vein Clinic Cardiologists Drs. Hajj and Kettelkamp offer multiple treatment options to get you back doing the things you enjoy without painful or swollen legs.

Have you ever had varicose veins? Yes | No


Do you have any of these symptoms in your legs or ankles?

  • Leg pain, aching or cramping
  • Burning or itching of the skin
  • Leg or ankle swelling, especially at the end of the day
  • “Heavy” feeling in legs
  • Skin discoloration or texture changes, such as above the inner ankle
  • Open wounds or sores, such as above the inner ankle
  • Restless legs


Has anyone in your blood-related family ever had varicose veins or been diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency or venous reflux?

  • Have you had any vein treatments or procedures? Yes | No
  • Do you stand for long periods of time? Yes | No
  • Do you frequently engage in heavy lifting? Yes | No
  • Have you ever been pregnant? Yes | No

If you have experienced these symptoms or risk factors, call (319) 739-2036 to schedule an appointment.

Treatment Options

UnityPoint Health Vein Clinic offers a comprehensive, non-surgical approach for treatment of varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency. The minimally-invasive treatment options are performed in our office and following a short, comfortable recovery there is a quick return to everyday activities. These treatment options include endovenous ablation, sclerotherapy and ambulatory phlebectomy.
If left untreated, varicose veins can progress to become chronic venous insufficiency with symptoms that worsen over time. These symptoms include ankle swelling, fatigue, restlessness and pain of the legs, skin damage and ulcers.

Endovenous Ablation

Endovenous thermal ablation is a minimally invasive treatment that involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a diseased vein to seal it shut using heat. Blood that would normally return toward the heart through these veins will then travel through other veins instead. The treated vein then dries up, shrinks and is absorbed by the body.


Sclerotherapy is the injection of a chemical into a diseased vein, which causes the vein to seal off. As with endovenous ablation, blood will then reroute to other veins in the body. Multiple treatments may be needed to close the damaged vein.

Ambulatory Phlebectomy

Ambulatory phlebectomy is a procedure that removes large surface varicose veins through tiny skin punctures which REQUIRES no stiches. It leaves minimal scarring and is performed under local anesthesia.

Why consider these options?

• Results can be immediate and have a high success rate.

  • Significant relief from discomfort such as aches, heaviness and pain
  • More efficient blood circulation
  • An improved body image and confidence in one’s appearance
  • A minimally invasive, quick and easy treatment option
  • You can return to your daily activities immediately