Procedures Available to Treat Varicose Veins

Dr. Stephen Keith and Dr. Roger Rosen offer the most advanced diagnosis and treatment options available for patients with varicose veins. No longer do patients have to endure painful operations, unsightly scars and long recovery times. There are now a number of minimally-invasive procedures available that result in less pain and faster recovery times.

Varicose veins appear as swollen, twisted lines that are raised above the surface of the skin. The veins bulge when blood fails to circulate properly. In some cases, the valves in the veins have weakened and have lost the ability to push blood back up to the heart. In other cases, it is the walls of the blood vessels that have weakened causing the volume of blood in the leg veins to increase. Varicose veins can appear in men and women and are most common on the legs and thighs. Spider veins are a mild variation of varicose veins which usually do not cause symptoms.

Symptoms/diagnosis

Varicose veins may be mild or they may cause severe pain or other symptoms and should be taken seriously. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms in your legs, you should be evaluated by an experienced vascular specialist:

Swelling
Swelling may occur in the lower part of the leg, usually around the ankle or in the feet. This often gets worse after longer periods of standing or sitting.

Bulging veins and enlarged veins
Veins that are swollen and raised above the skin surface.

Red or blue veins
Small red or blue veins found closer to the skin surface (spider veins). The veins may vary in size, but often look like the branches of a tree.

Burning or throbbing veins
Muscle cramping, pain, or veins that are warm or sensitive to the touch.

Bleeding
Bleeding may be due to a ruptured surface vein or more rarely be associated with a venous ulcer, one of the most severe forms of vein disease. This most often occurs on the lower leg or ankle. You should elevate your leg, apply pressure over the bleeding site, and seek medical help immediately.

Skin discoloration
Change of skin color (darkening) in areas around the affected veins. The color can be brown or red and is often shiny. Certain conditions may cause whitening or hardening of the skin.

Tired, heavy, aching feeling
Often a dull achiness that feels worse at night.

Itching
An irritated rash or strong itching sensation on or near your veins.

Numbness
A tingling feeling or lack of sensation.

Dr. Keith and Dr. Rosen will conduct a comprehensive medical evaluation to determine the severity of your condition, your risk for more serious complications, and the most appropriate treatment for you.

Your evaluation may include a comprehensive duplex ultrasound, the most advanced testing available to diagnose varicose veins. It allows the physician to view ultrasound images of veins not visible on the surface of the skin. The Vascular Lab at Hawthorn Medical is accredited by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories (ICAVL). You can be confident that you are receiving the highest level of patient care and quality testing.

Treatment

Treatments for varicose veins range from cosmetic procedures that reduce the appearance of the veins to complex medical care to treat or help prevent serious complications. Dr. Keith and Dr. Rosen are experienced in the most innovative treatment options and surgeries for varicose veins. Treatment options include:

Endovenous ablation
Endovenous ablation is minimally invasive and highly effective. The physician makes a very small incision in the skin and inserts a catheter through it. Targeted laser or radiofrequency energy is directed through the catheter to shrink the unhealthy vein until it eventually closes itself off. The body then naturally redirects blood flow to healthier veins. Endovenous ablation patients experience minimal discomfort and can resume normal activities within days.

Sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy is often used for spider veins. A chemical agent is injected into a vein and the vein responds by closing itself off. Blood is redirected to healthier veins and the body eventually absorbs the faulty vein. The procedure involves very little if any discomfort, and patients can return almost immediately to regular activities.

Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy
Veins that are too deep below the skin to respond to traditional sclerotherapy are often treated with ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, in which the physician uses ultrasound imaging to aid the placement of the needle in the vein. Once the vein has been located using the image, the chemical agent can be injected and the vein will seal itself off, as with regular sclerotherapy.

Ambulatory phlebectomy
For varicose veins closer to the surface of the skin, ambulatory phlebectomy is often the treatment of choice. The physician numbs the skin and then makes a tiny incision, through which the problem veins are drawn out. The use of compression bandages for up to two weeks is usually needed.

Compression therapy
Some varicose veins respond well to compression therapy, which is the use of specially designed compression hose to provide compression at different locations on the legs. The amount of pressure needed depends on each patient’s specific situation.

Prevention

There is no way to completely prevent spider veins and varicose veins, but there are some things you can do to reduce the severity of existing varicose veins and/or prevent new ones from forming:

Exercise
Taking periodic walks, or other similar aerobic exercise, activates the calf muscles which will “pump” deoxygenated blood out of the legs, reducing vein pooling and pressure. Maintaining good general muscle tone will improve your overall circulation.

Weight control
Maintaining a sensible weight will reduce blood pressure and stress on your veins.

Watch what you wear
Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing that can cause vessel constriction. Wearing flat or low heels requires greater activation of calf muscles during walking and thereby improves leg circulation.

Leg elevation
Raising your legs while resting (especially above your heart level) will assist blood flow in the veins, yielding less pooling and better drainage in the leg veins.

Avoid long periods of sitting or standing
If you must sit or stand still for extended periods, try to take a periodic walk or at least flex your ankles up and down. Also, avoid crossing your legs when sitting.

Wear compression stockings
Graduated compression stockings can assist your venous circulation and help prevent conditions like deep vein thrombosis. Consider wearing them when taking long airplane or car rides.

see also: vascular surgery