Recommendations for your varicose vein treatment will vary depending on how bad they are.
For milder cases – as for spider veins – your vein specialist will probably start with some suggestions for lifestyle changes and practical ways to ease discomfort and stop them getting any worse.
You may be advised to lose weight, exercise more, put your feet up as much as possible, avoid long periods of standing or sitting and wear special compression stockings to support your legs.
For many people with leg vein problems there may be no need for medical treatment. Varicose veins are not life threatening and surgical intervention is not necessary although you may experience discomfort from heavy and aching legs.
For many of us though – vanity plays a part. Varicose veins spoil our looks and stop us feeling completely confident and positive about our appearance. For instance if your varicose veins bulge out from the skin, cause you pain or swelling in your legs, or just make you feel bad about yourself – lifestyle changes may not be enough.
You may be worried about the cost, pain and downtime involved in getting treatment – but the good news is that there are excellent new technologies around and varicose vein treatment is generally covered by medical insurance. Many women who finally get their leg veins dealt with wonder why they didn’t do it years ago!
There are currently several medical approaches to varicose vein removal.
1. Vein stripping For larger veins the traditional surgical approach in the past has been varicose vein removal through a process known as vein stripping. Vein stripping requires a general anesthetic under which incisions are made near the knee and groin and the diseased primary varicose vein is literally pulled from the body using a special device. The procedure can be quite effective but – as you would expect – it is painful and there is a lot of downtime with reduced mobility and heavy bandaging.
2. Phlebectomy Phlebectomy is an in office surgical procedure under local anesthia to remove bulging surface varicose veins in the lower leg and ankle. The treatment involves small incisions at several points along the vein to remove the faulty vein in sections. Phlebectomy may be carried out after the closure of the source vein by VNUS or EVLT.
3. VNUS Vein closure Nowadays newer techniques have overtaken vein stripping as a method of vein removal. Vein closure was approved by the FDA in 1999 for treating varicose veins and is now a common treatment option carried out in office under a local anesthetic.
The doctor will insert a tiny tube into the affected vein and apply heat from a radiofrequency unit to the vein wall causing the vein to shrink and seal shut. With the faulty vein shut off – the healthy veins around it take over to restore normal blood flow from the legs. As normal blood flow returns your symptoms will be reduced.
One of the big advantages is that you can resume normal activity immediately after the treatment with very little bruising or other side effects. RF (radiofrequency) treatment uses gentle heat so bruising is minimized and success rates are high. Vein closure is mainly used to treat the larger feeder vein in the thigh area and you may need additional treatment to deal with any secondary swollen and raised veins in the lower leg and ankle.
4. Endovenous Laser treatment (EVLT) Another deeper vein treatment based on a similar approach to VNUS vein closure. A small fiber optic is inserted into the faulty vein and laser heat is used to destroy it. The laser heats the blood to an extremely high level to shut off the vein and the heat may cause slightly more bruising and discomfort than radiofrequency. Generally this method has high success rates and patient satisfaction but the same limitations apply if you have unsightly veins in the lower leg which may need additional treatment.
5. Sclerotherapy – One of the oldest methods of treating veins sclerotherapy has been around since the middle of the nineteenth century. Faulty veins are destroyed by the injection of a special agent -sometimes but not always a foam. This type of vein treatment is only suitable for the smallest varicose veins or spider veins. It involves a little discomfort with many tiny injections and may require several sessions for full removal.
If you’re ready to take the plunge – your first step should be to find an accredited vein specialist operating from a first class vein treatment center or clinic. Only a doctor specializing in vein problems will be able to advise you properly and provide the full range of treatments available. In the US the best starting point is veins online which is the biggest online resource for veins and varicose vein treatment and has a great search facility for local vein centers.
As with any medical procedure – do your research thoroughly before you commit!