Healthwatch

By: Michelle Esteban, KOMO 4 News
By: Michelle Esteban, KOMO 4 News

Alaska Airlines pilot Larry Cripe is right where he wants to be. He's been flying for 20 years, but worries if he doesn't do something about his varicose veins, he won't be able to fly ever again.

"I don't want to be flying long hauls," said Cripe.

The cockpit is painful for Cripe. Whenever he sits or stands for more than an hour, the bulging varicose veins in his legs start to throb and ache. His feet and ankles swell so badly they double in size.

"So uncomfortable with my legs all the time that I'm at the point that I'll do whatever it takes for that to go away," Cripe said.

For 15 years, he's lived with the condition. But painkillers and even the compression hose he wears to ease the pain no longer work. And Cripe says he's worried about a blood clot.

"That could be life threatening," said Cripe. "That scares me more than
anything else."

It worries his doctor, too. Ultrasound imaging shows just how twisted Larry's veins are. He has opted for the latest high-tech option, endovenous laser treatment.

A laser replaces a surgical knife. It's one of the reasons Dr. Daniel Pepper says more and more patients are signing up.

"Surgery is sometimes a bad word to the public. It may mean incision and pain," said Pepper.

Once inside the leg, the laser's radio frequency energy heats up the vein and seals it up. The other veins take over and restore normal blood flow.

Larry needed only one day of rest before he could get back to what he loves, flying planes.

Doctors say the laser treatment is 95 percent effective.


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