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Beauty at a glance

By Inese Timuka . 01.04.2010

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Medicine has a long tradition in Latvia, and these days a broad range of options are available for treatments. At the same time, beauty has become a universal brand. Depending on the results a person is searching for, beauty and health can be nurtured at a spa with the help of a dermatologist, or at the surgeon’s clinic.

Both the spa and medical tourism industries can trace their roots back to the earliest historical epochs; people have always sought places for the renewal of body, mind and spirit (the spa), just as they have been traveling for centuries across borders for medical reasons (medical tourism).
As the Latvian economy starts to show signs of life again this spring, more people may opt for cosmetic surgery procedures, reversing the steep decline of the last two years. However, we don't expect the numbers to reach their record highs anytime soon, and that’s the reason why local medics have finally started to consider the potential of foreign patients.


The majority of private clinics in Latvia are equipped with the most modern and internationally accepted medical devices that anyone can hope to get and doctors improve their knowledge on a regular basis. From this point of view state-owned hospitals hire highly knowledgeable and experienced specialists, but the hospitals themselves haven’t been renovated for decades.
The Clinic for Aesthetic Dermatology is the biggest dermatology center in Latvia, focusing mainly on problems related to dermatology and phlebology (varicose and spider veins). The clinic offers a wide variety of modern diagnostics and treatments for all kinds of acute and chronic skin diseases using state-of-the-art technologies.  
It was interesting to find out that they are cooperating with a couple of medical travel companies, one from Britain, the other from Latvia, which started to operate in this field during the downturn.
“We offer our services and the travel company wraps it a package together with flights, transfers from and to the airport, and accommodation,” Diāna Bīlmane, executive director at the Clinic for Aesthetic Dermatology, explained.
So far, incoming travelers are in the minority compared to local patients. “We are dealing with foreign diplomats who tell us that it’s difficult to find doctors as they don’t have information on where to go.” 
Patients from western countries know what they need and what they want, so basically they are searching for lower prices, but patients from the east don’t know what they want and are simply searching for help either because doctors in their home countries can’t help or they don’t have the right technologies.
“Patients are always interested in the price of treatment, but it’s not always easy to predict the exact price just from the photos patients send. It might correlate depending on the diagnosis, the scale of the surgery and the patient himself. Our doctors consult foreign patients on the phone, ask all the necessary information, ask them to make x-rays, etc,” Bīlmane said.

Spring in your step

Often patients start searching for a phlebology specialist once they start to feel tiredness in their legs. “We don't feel those parts of our body that are healthy and without problems,” says Dr Ints Udris, a vascular surgeon healing patients at the Clinic for Aesthetic Dermatology. He recommends visiting a specialist for advice as surgery is not always what is needed.
“There are two ways of treating veins. One is with laser technology, which is mainly used in Europe, the other with radio frequencies, which is common in the USA. We own both of these techniques,” said Bīlmane.
She explained that at her clinic they are trying to make life easy for foreigners as all prices include tests prior to surgery, the treatment fee and medications required for the post-treatment period, so they don't have to go to a pharmacy with receipts. But overall, she said, prices are 30 times as cheap as in the western countries.
Doctor Udris said that he doesn’t mind if patients do tests and diagnostics in their home country, but before doing surgery he redoes the tests and sonography himself, as he takes full responsibility for the patient. 
We asked whether the demand for vein surgery has lowered. Bīlmane said no: “During the economic downturn the number of patients has grown, due to marketing activities and the overall interest of patients in health problems.”
However, Dr Udris said that the demographics of patients has changed a lot, as the average age of patients gets older. Just a few years ago there were many young ladies with cosmetic problems, he said; nowadays patients are older people with more serious health-related issues.
We found out that after vein surgery patients can leave the clinic on the same day, but incoming medical tourists are asked to stay for 24-hour observation. The next day the dressing is made and the patients can leave. 
Finally, Dr. Udris mentioned the risk factors provoking vein sicknesses. “The first factor is being female, but the most serious factors are heredity, pregnancy and hormones, as well as working in a sedentary position. And high-heeled shoes also leave an impact on veins.”

When scalpel is necessary

Plastic surgery clinics in Riga offer a plethora of surgical and non-surgical treatments and techniques to improve people’s appearance and functionality. Undertaken in an appropriate way with experienced plastic surgeons, the results can be positive and beneficial.
In total there around 25 plastic surgeons practicing in Riga, providing procedures that are of excellent quality, not least because most specialists have experience gained from professional programs in other European countries and the USA.
Private clinics are fully equipped with the most modern medical equipment and knowledgeable staff who speak foreign languages. As a result, doctors have all they need to perform expert surgery and stay up-to-date on the latest breakthroughs.
One clinic that deals with foreigners is the private clinic of Dr. Feldmanis, which has established successful cooperation with a Norwegian company that sends in a lot of patients.
“I believe we started our cooperation with the Norwegian partners at the right time and now we can see really good results. The flow of patients is stable,” says Dr Kaspars Feldmanis.
He revealed that they were treating all kinds of problems for patients from around the world, from Australia to the UK. At the initial stage, patients contact him via Skype or email.
It’s no secret that the cost for treatments hasn’t reached the average levels of the European Union, yet the quality meets really high standards.
“Compared to European countries we are never less than equal, and sometimes we leave them behind,” says Dr Feldmanis, who works together with his colleague Dr Evija Rodke at his clinic on the outskirts of the Latvian capital.
His clinic has been built especially for the purposes of plastic surgery and offers all kinds of procedures.
“This is one of the reasons why we created our own clinic – in this case patients feel more comfortable, safer, more confidential, preserved from other people’s attention,” Dr Rodke explains.
They have Med SPA services at their clinic too, as well as the consultations of a dermatologist, massage, cosmetology and botox injections. And from this year they have added laser vein surgery to their list of offers too.
“Dr. Maurins and his team have joined our clinic, to heal problems of legs with the latest technologies.”  
The treatment trends in Riga in terms of popularity go together with those around Europe. For a couple of years now, nose improvements and hand surgery have been the most popular procedures with men, while women prefer breast enlargements and facelifts. Body reshaping, which includes liposuction, tummy tucks, arm reduction surgery and buttock lifts, accounts for the rest.
Dr Rodke added: “In Latvia, it is a standard that the doctor is personally involved during the healing process. We hear many references saying that nowhere in Europe is the service as attentive as it is here.”

What spas do best

The trend for spas is ever-growing. People seeking spas for wellness increasingly travel across borders for preventive services, diagnostics, spa treatments and well-being vacations. It seems that the medi-spa concept have dramatically broadened the appeal of medical tourism away from surgery.
The core strength of spas is to provide relaxation and de-stressing, as well as preventative health-and-wellness offerings.  They are destinations where people in fundamentally good health focus on getting healthier, via fitness, nutrition, body therapies and beauty treatments, sleep, mind-body modalities, and at times complementary and alternative practices.
Many global consumers opt for such journeys because another country or region offers significantly lower costs or greater procedure/treatment availability. In Latvia, spa-goers can find a wide variety of treatments at day spas, spa hotels or countryside spas for authenticity and tradition, and of course that magical spa experience. Medicine and relaxation welcome new clients to Latvia. Try it out for yourself!

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