“The evening has been lovely, thank you, but I need to head home now,” Linda Somma explained to her colleague. “I had been invited to a charity auction and bingo event,” Linda recalls.
“It was from 6 pm to 10 pm, but I was already exhausted by 7:30. I knew if I didn’t leave soon, there was no way I’d be able to wake up for work the next day. My colleague looked at me like I had six heads, but all I could do was say ‘I’m so sorry’ — and get home, where I immediately crawled into bed.
“That was in 2019, when fatigue made it impossible for me to do much of anything in the evenings. I continued to work as a human resources manager, but I had to put so much more effort in just to get through the day that by the end, I was spent.
“After work, I would collapse on the couch, put on the TV and fall asleep. After an hour or two, I made my way to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I was still exhausted.
“I’d always had a busy social life, but I started to become isolated. I rarely met up with friends or dated because I couldn’t muster up the energy. I couldn’t even talk on the phone because it was too much to keep up a conversation. Eventually, I accepted being tired all the time. I gave it all I could during the day so nobody knew how I was feeling.
“Sadly, fatigue wasn’t my only issue. I also had trouble concentrating. But the symptoms in my legs worried me the most. They were swollen, and I felt severe pressure in them. I also had muscle spasms, a sharp pain in my calf, cramped toes, and restless legs.
“My symptoms came on gradually, and I thought it was because I was getting older, so I never bothered to bring up the fatigue to my doctor. But when new symptoms popped up— my legs and feet turned brown, blue, and gray, and the skin above my ankle dented when I pressed it — I knew that I needed help.
“When I was in my 40s, I’d had spider veins in my legs and underwent a procedure to collapse the veins. This time, I didn’t have bulging veins, but the discoloration and denting seemed serious, so I looked for a vein doctor. I found Christopher Pittman, MD, the medical director and founder of Vein 911 (Vein911.com) in Tampa, Florida, and booked an appointment.
“After doing an ultrasound, Dr. Pittman explained that one of the veins in my legs was twice the size it should be and that there was leakage, and the blood that settled in my feet was causing the discoloration. He diagnosed me with vascular disease, a condition that affects the veins, arteries, and circulatory system, and he said that it contributed to the fatigue. It made sense, but I was surprised that my legs were actually causing the fatigue.
“Fortunately, it was treatable with two noninvasive, outpatient procedures that were covered by insurance. For the first, thermal ablation, he numbed the area near my thigh and inserted a thin tube that collapsed the veins. The vein was dissolved and removed. I felt a little tired after the procedure, but I didn’t have any pain and I was able to drive home. Within a few days, I felt less pressure in my legs and I had more energy — it was amazing! For a week, I wore thigh-high compression stockings all day and at night.
“A few weeks later, I went back for ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy. This was an injection into the vein branches to stop the leakage. I continued to wear the compression stockings to help with circulation, and I went to work the next day.
“Dr. Pittman also suggested I take vitamin C to speed healing and to avoid vitamin E when I had the treatment since it can cause blood thinning. I also had to walk for at least 20 minutes a day to prevent blood from pooling.
“After each treatment, my energy increased and I realized how much of an impact my veins were having on my energy. Within about three months, I no longer felt exhausted and all of my symptoms had improved. I felt like a new person!
“I’ve had five more sclerotherapy treatments, which is optional, but I wanted to clean up the rest of my veins and be able to wear dresses again. I continue to wear knee-high compression socks (Buy on Amazon, $9.99) at work because I feel better when I wear them and the support gives me more energy. “Now that I’m no longer sidelined by fatigue, I’m living life to the fullest. I have a new job and more responsibility, I’m busy building a new house, I’m able to exercise every day and I have energy to spare. Recently, I attended a virtual reunion and stayed until after it ended!”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.