Varicose Veins Treatment
Veins are the vessels that return blood to the heart once it has circulated through the body (as opposed to arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body). They have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing in the proper direction. If these valves stop functioning the way they are supposed to, blood can flow backwards and pool in the vein, causing it to stretch.
Varicose veins are swollen, dark blue or purple blood vessels that you can see and feel beneath the skin. They often look like twisted cords, and usually appear on the calves, inside of the legs, and ankles. Varicose veins form when the valves within a vein weaken and allow some blood to flow backward. The vein weakens under the additional strain and balloons outward, raising the skin surface.
Patients with varicose veins do not usually experience severe pain from this condition, although most will develop some swelling, aching, throbbing, cramping and other symptoms that may indicate a need for medical attention.
Causes and Risks Factors of Varicose Veins
While varicose veins can affect nearly anyone, they tend to occur more often in patients possessing certain risk factors, including:
• Older age
• Family history of varicose veins
• Lack of physical activity
• Excessive sun exposure
Varicose veins occur more commonly in men than in women, and the risk tends to increase with age. While not usually of debilitating medical concern, most patients with varicose veins are bothered by their appearance and physical symptoms as discussed earlier and seek treatment.
Diagnosing Varicose Veins
Your doctor can usually diagnose varicose veins after a physical examination of the affected area. Additional testing may also be performed, such as an ultrasound to evaluate the anatomy, structure, and blood flow within the veins. The physician will ‘map out’ and identify the bad refluxing veins from the good functioning veins.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
Many people with venous disease seek cosmetic treatment to reduce the appearance of varicose or spider veins on the legs. Treatment usually relieves the discomfort associated with the condition such as swelling, fatigue, aching, itching, and cramps. Sometimes, however, more significant problems can develop if veins are left untreated. Clogging of the blood in the veins can result in the formation of a clot that blocks blood flow or breaks free and travels to the heart or lungs, causing severe damage and even death.
There are several treatment options available to eliminate or reduce the appearance of veins and relieve any symptoms, and may include self-care methods such as losing weight, keeping the legs elevated and wearing compression stockings.
For veins that do not respond to these remedies, more advanced treatments may be required:
• Sclerotherapy treats varicose veins by injecting a solution into the targeted veins that causes them to gradually disappear. The sclerosing solution used during this procedure irritates the vein lining and turns it into scar tissue that eventually fades away. In most cases, desired results are achieved after two to four treatment sessions.
• Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) is a minimally invasive procedure that treats truncal varicose veins faster, safer and more effectively than other procedures, as it precisely targets the affected veins with a laser probe under ultrasound guidance. The laser energy delivered to the vein damages the vein walls and shrinks the vessel so that blood can no longer flow through and is diverted to healthy veins.
• An ambulatory phlebectomy is an outpatient procedure designed and performed to remove non-truncal (tributary or branching) varicose veins through small, slit-like incisions in the skin.
Preventing Varicose Veins
While there is no surefire way to prevent varicose veins from developing, there are certain life changes that can be made in order to reduce your risk of developing this condition. This may include:
• Exercising regularly
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Eating a diet high in fiber and low in salt
• Elevating the legs
• Avoiding sitting or standing in one position for too long
Your doctor will provide you with more information as to how you can reduce your risk of varicose veins and maintain strong vascular health.
Varicose Vein FAQ
Why do I have varicose veins?
All varicose veins occur because the venous valve does not function as it should. In the standing position, blood flows the wrong way. Gradually, these areas around the valve dilate and the veins become visible. Why valves do not work right is really unknown. Hereditary plays a big factor, as well as pregnancy.
Will I be able to exercise normally after I have my varicose veins removed?
You will be able to walk but, will be sore for a few days. It is recommended that patients rest the day of surgery and take it easy on day 2. It is also advided that patients wait at least one week for vigorous exercise such as leg presses, running 2 miles, etc…
How long does it take for my leg to heal after treatment?
You may have some discomfort and bruising. Taking NSAIDS, using a post treatment cream and wearing compression stockings will help minimize redness, discomfort & bruising.
Do I need to elevate my leg after treatment?
It is often recommended to elevate your leg the day of the procedure. Lying in a recliner chair or elevating your legs on a couch is fine.
Should I wear compression stockings after treatment?
Often patients will wear compression stockings for a few days after the procedure. You wear the stockings during the day only. You do not have to sleep in your stockings. Some patients wear stockings for a few days and others wear their stockings for a week.
How long will my results last?
It all varies but, the results should be good. You may develop new veins but, usually they are less severe than what you originally had.