Former Olympian Summer Sanders Wants You to Rethink Varicose Veins

Princess 19 on 23 Apr 2012 at 10:30am

When you think varicose veins, one might assume those suffering this condition are overweight, non-active individuals.  But, how about a former Olympic Gold medalist?  TV commentator and world-renowned US swimmer, Summer Sanders recently sat down with us to discuss her plight with the condition - as well as her new role to create awareness in treating this ailment.

Summer, who won 2 gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the 1992 Summer Olympics, would not strike anyone as being inactive or lazy.  But, after the birth of her of second child, she found herself suddenly dealing with varicose veins - an unsightly and uncomfortable condition not usually associated with those "on-the-go" like herself.  She admits, however, she has known of varicose veins a long time.

Summer Sanders with medals

"My Mom had them," she laments.  She suffered with this condition for "most of her life."

Summer used to mistakenly call them "very close veins" when she was younger. 

Her mother jokingly told her back then that she "got them from her children."  Never did Summer think she would be experiencing it herself one day - and ironically, when she became a mom. 

Her symptoms started very simply as a "nagging, annoying ache" in her legs.  But, what most people do not know - which she soon found out - that nagging ache of varicose veins is a precursor to a disease called chronic venous insufficiency or CVI.  It is not just a cosmetic issue.  If left untreated, it can open up a wealth of problems including including pain, discoloration, venous ulcers and open wounds.  Treatment in the early stages is key.

According to Dr. Mark A. Adelman, an Associate Professor of Surgery at New York University Medical Center, the condition occurs when valves "are not closing properly."  These valves within the veins are responsible for getting blood to the heart.  Various factors like pregnancy, age, genetics and long-term standing can cause vein damage. 

Contrary to popular belief, exercise and being physical can exacerbate the condition.  When there is damage, blood flow gets backed up, and the veins rise and bulge to the surface of the skin.

"Over 30 million Americans in the U.S. suffer from this condition and less than 10% actually seek treatment," says Summer.

"Anyone can have this condition," she continues.  "And anyone can take care of it."

In order to encourage more people to get diagnosed and get treated, Summer has partnered with the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS), the American College of Phlebology (ACP) and the American Venous Forum (AVF) to launch Rethink Varicose Veins, a website to promote awareness and various treatments such as sclerotherapy or radiofrequency ablation (which Dr. Adelman recommends).

"Really analyze yourself at the end of the day," she positively urges.

Unlike her mother, Summer chose not to live with the condition and sought treatment (Venefit, a radiofrequency procedure) which she says was relatively quick and painless.  With all that she has going on - including a TV stint in the upcoming Summer Olympics in London - she feels that if she found the time to deal with the condition, so could everyone else.

Ultimately, her goal with this campaign is to inspire long-time sufferers to seek help and fix the problem before it's too late.

See more about Summer's story:

Photo credit:  Businesswire