Living with varicose veins
Date: 5/3/2012 7:36:00 PM
I hope that title doesn't sound pedantic and long-suffering. Even I'm not as mulish as my veins are.
Over the past 18 months, I've dealt with varicose veins. They started small, with a vein or two visible behind the knee, which didn't bother me. Then, last September, the biggest of them suddenly announced its presence. Since then, one vein steadily floods and engorges others around it, so if I stand for a few minutes, you see a tapestry of swollen veins behind my knee. Sometimes they cause discomfort, in varying degrees, and on a few occasions, twinges of pain.
They're not yet as gross as the pictures one finds on searching for 'varicose veins' on the internet, but I am told, and can see, that they will worsen if I do nothing about them. I should shut up, actually. They're not life-threatening in the least. (Varicose veins are dysfunctional veins that don't do a great job of returning the blood to the heart and cause an abnormal reversal of flow; in my case - letting it pool in the veins instead, engorging them and putting pressure on other veins.) Nevertheless, dealing with them can be spirit-sapping.
Doctors are good at siphoning out spirit. I just came back from a visit to a general surgeon who was pessimistically honest, promising no all-encompassing solutions and saying things like - but this is life, my child. In his own sincere way, he was depressing. But I appreciate that he didn't try to foist a single agenda on me. My first few visits were to a vascular surgeon who specialised in dealing with varicose veins, at a fancy hospital a stone's throw away from home. I don't know whom to blame; he was moderately precise, but everything he did or prescribed reeked of how much more money he could make off me. When you're already confused, a doctor who's sizing you up like a blank cheque really sets off alarm bells. He came with happy optimism and 97% success rates, which I'm not completely disinclined to believe, but I could see that his approach was superficial.
He also recommended that I wear support stockings.
Stockings. Life's little ironies. I clung to socks long after most people my age abandoned them. I still love socks, though I'm less anal about when to wear them now! For the past few months, I've gone around wearing a long support stocking on my left leg. This was not how I envisioned my love affair with socks - this is fate's sadistic comeback - you love socks, you wear really long ones! The veins feel better, but wearing that thing in summer is torture. I feel like a member of some cult that practices corporal mortification.
Depending on what mood I am in, I find the stocking sexy or terribly awful. They're also awfully expensive - I suddenly realise, in a moment of painful clarity, that I don't own a sari that costs that much. Warped vanity indeed - my most expensive clothing a pair of support stockings?
The cost apart, these stockings are also a pain to put on. The few times I've tried to wear this particular pair (it fits me right, of course, I've been measured for them), it took two people and fifteen minutes of trying to slide the stocking up my leg before I managed.
I'm strongly considering going in for the laser procedure that destroys the veins - when the vascular surgeon clinically described it, I couldn't help thinking it sounded like Poothanamoksham. Around the time I began wearing support stockings, I spent some days obsessively looking for information on varicose veins. I've read tons about the procedure now and about veins in general, but that doesn't leave me less confused - also because most of this is US or UK-specific. Most India-related links on the web are either maintained by vein clinics who obviously endorse their work or random stocking suppliers. At one point I really wanted to talk to others who'd been through the procedure or who've dealt with varicose veins. Call me alarmist/ maniacal for wanting a varicose veins support group, but sometimes those things help.
My favourite stance these days is a very Krishna-type thing, with my weight resting on my right leg. The veins in my left leg love it. Meanwhile, I'll keep raising my throbbing leg into the air in the middle of a meeting. But now you know that's not a pose from erotic sculpture. In sculpture, they cup their breasts, not the back of their knees.