Varicose veins are a common condition, affecting an estimated 40 million people in the U.S. The swollen, discolored, and enlarged veins can cause varying degrees of discomfort. In many cases, varicose veins are a sign of underlying concerns. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options for varicose veins. These minimally invasive, image-guided procedures are a far cry from the past practice of vein stripping. Without the pain, scarring, and recovery time associated with vein stripping, treating varicose veins has become quite common.
Cutting-edge outpatient procedures to treat varicose veins:
- EndoVenous Laser Treatment (EVLT®): EndoVenous Laser Treatment is a non-surgical, minimally invasive laser procedure for varicose veins. It has an extremely high rate of initial success and excellent long-term results. During the procedure, a small incision is made in the vein, allowing for a catheter and small laser to be guided into the vein. The laser is used to cause the vein to collapse and the blood to reroute. The hour-long procedure is outpatient, and patients can return to their normal daily activities immediately.
- Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is non-surgical, and utilizes simple injections of a solution to close off varicose veins. This therapy requires multiple injections and can make varicose veins disappear completely within two weeks or so. Patients can return to their everyday activities following the procedure and are encouraged to walk or move frequently in order to reduce the risk of clotting.
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA): Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment that uses radio frequency heat to cause scar tissue to form, which in turn closes the varicose vein. This procedure requires only a tiny incision in the vein to complete. Emitted radio frequency causes the vein to collapse and blood to reroute. This treatment can be completed in less than an hour with local anesthetic and minimal discomfort. Patients can immediately resume normal activities.
- Ambulatory Phlebectomy: Ambulatory phlebectomy can remove large varicose veins through miniscule incisions. This outpatient procedure produces excellent results, does not require stitches, and leaves no scarring. Patients can resume normal activities right away.
- Spider Veins: Laser treatment for spider veins can improve and eliminate the appearance of small to medium sized blood vessels in the legs. Spider vein treatment often results in some bruising and discoloration for 1-3 weeks. It can take up to 90 days to see the full results of treatment. Typically more than one treatment is necessary for optimal results.
How are varicose veins diagnosed?
In the past, varicose veins were analyzed with the use of a Doppler device through which a physician would listen for blood flow. Vascular specialists now use duplex ultrasound to take two-dimensional images. With greater accuracy and precision, your doctor will be able to determine exactly which veins are affected and which treatment options would be most optimal.
How to reduce the risk factors for varicose veins.
In order to maximize the benefits from treatment and help reduce the risk of developing more varicose veins in the future, certain lifestyle changes can help promote a healthy vascular system.
- Maintain an active lifestyle. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk factors for varicose veins by promoting healthy circulation. People who travel often or work in an office setting can benefit from taking breaks to walk around, stretch, and elevate legs when possible.
- Avoid cutting off circulation. Wearing tight clothing and crossing legs while sitting are two common causes of restricting blood flow.
- Eat a diet rich in nutrients. A nutrient-dense diet can assist in proper digestive health, low cholesterol, and overall vascular health.
- Stay hydrated. Proper hydration promotes healthy blood pressure, may reduce inflammation, supports vein health, and keeps veins strong and resilient.
- Try very gentle massage. Gently massaging the legs in an upward motion can help increase circulation and reduce inflammation. Be careful to not apply pressure directly to varicose veins.