You know, I wasn’t always a suburbanite doctor specializing in spider vein and varicose vein treatment. I’m a born-and-bred Chicagoan. North sider. I was raised a pop-not-soda-drinking, pothole-avoiding, early-and-often-voting, lawn-chair-parking-spot-saving Cubs fan.

Forget the epithet “The Second City”…not just cuz we’re the third largest by population at this point…Chicago is “The First City” in my book… or blog, in any case. Hey..not just in my book/blog either: Chicago is a city of important firsts…achievements that everyone can appreciate:

  • The Ferris Wheel
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Zipper
  • wireless remote control
  • deep dish pizza
  • birth control pill
  • Blood Bank

…and, of course, the 16-inch softball.

But…by far…one of the most amazing feats of modern engineering was the reversal of flow of the Chicago River in 1900. Up until that time, the Chicago River was the repository of the city’s sewage. The efflux would flow out of Chicagoland’s cummulative bowels/bladders and into Lake Michigan which, then as now, was the city’s source of drinking water. As you can imagine, this was a ticking time bomb for disease.

So…our city’s leaders, then as now, figured out a solution that would both satisfy their constituents…and piss off just about everyone outside the city. The answer: reverse the flow of the river…and let the efflux travel towards the Des Plaines river instead (and head to St. Louis…heheheh).

The abdriged story goes something like: St Louis gets pissed-off…or better said…angry about potentially being pissed-on …takes Chicago to court…and while things are being battled in the courts…certain impatient and, shall we say, proactive-but-ethically-lax Chicagoans busted the remaining barrier preventing backflow into the Des Plains river. River reverses…efflux becomes reflux. Lake Michigan becomes safe and drinkable. Everybody…except those in the refluxing poo-tsunami’s path… happy.

Nowadays the Chicago River is clean and getting cleaner by the year. For those who haven’t strolled or rode your bike around it recently, the river front is a place bustling with activity. Places to sit and eat. Rikshaw or surrey tandem bikes to rent. And…you can even go exploring on the river itself with kayak tours. My favorite tour operator is [plug alert] Urban Kayaks. My wife and I were given a gift by a grateful patient…a night kayak tour on the river.

So. Much. Fun.

Third of all…first and second are the fact that we found 1) a trustworthy babysitter who was 2) willing to watch our kids…it was a beautiful night…the backdrop was the gorgeous lit-up skyline around the river near Michigan Ave and Wacker Drive. We paddled around…in our tandem kayak…and by “we” I mean mostly “me” paddled and Marianne mostly sat there looking pretty…and then watched the fireworks that they shoot off near Navy Pier.

There are so many fun things to do that I’ve done in Chicago…this is in the top 10.

But this is a vein blog and you, dear reader, are likely wondering how this all relates to vein disease in the lower extremities. No worries, we’re gonna tie this in and wrap this up in a few paragraphs. No sweat.

Ahem…the Chicago River isn’t the only place where reflux…or reversed flow…caused a commotion [clever tie in alert]. In fact, right now…in many of my readers’ legs…a subtle, quiet battle is raging. A battle between the force of gravity and a series of tenacious but oft troubled valves meant to check backflow toward the feet.

If these valves malfunction, flow is allowed to pool in lower extremity veins. Over time, the veins and branches off of them get stretched out.  This leads to symptoms (heaviness, fatigue, cramping, restless legs, swelling) and eventually can lead to a collection of spider veins or bulging varicose veins.

Such superficial venous reflux is diagnosed by doing a painless, but highly informative, ultrasound exam. Once the superficial vein segments with problematic valves are located, we can map out a course of treatment tailored to a patient’s particular needs.

Treatments involve closing off such improper avenues of flow and instead diverting flow to St. Louis…no not really, I was just trying to see if you were paying attention!…the flow is actually diverted instantly to veins where the valves function normally.

State-of-the-art, non-surgical procedures that reroute flow include Endovenous Laser Ablation

(EVLA…click here to read more) or a newer, even more comfortable procedure called Clarivein® (click here to learn more). After rerouting flow, surface varicose veins and spider veins are generally “cleaned up” by doing safe/comfortable/effective/often covered by insurance sclerotherapy injections which chemically close off veins and allow the body to resorb them over the course of weeks to months. Take a look at some of the Before & After pictures.

Such treatments are the bread-and-butter procedures that I do everyday. They lead to signficant reduction in symptoms and esthetic improvement. Patients are happy. Happy enough to even treat Me and the Mrs. to a kayak ride on the refluxing river…and, like river-cloud-rain-lake-river, we return to where we started after a few short paragraphs…just in time to wrap up another edition of Vein Blog.

If you want to learn less about Chicago history and more about how your legs can feel and look better than they have in years, call 847-272-8346 or click the button below to get on schedule to see me for an initial consultation appointment.

See you soon and stay classy Chicagoland!