Varicose vein info
Get the latest news on varicose veins, (or as it's known medically venous reflux), plus find info on vein treatment options such as sclerotherapy, VNUS closure, radiofrequency ablation & laser surgery. You'll also find out about other ways to be as vein-free as possible, surgical ligation & vein stripping, endoscopic vein surgery, ambulatory phlebectomy and more skin care issues.
Veins are what carry our blood back to the heart. Veins have valves which keep the blood flowing in the right direction towards the heart. But sometimes the valves get weak. As a result, the blood basically gets stuck in the vein and collects there. This enlarges the vein. The result can be swollen varicose veins. Veins can be found on the legs, but they can also be found on the temples of the forehead, as well as on the hands.
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Varicose veins are swollen veins which are higher than your skin's surface. They can be the same color as your skin, or they can be dark blue or purple Bulging varicose veins can most often be found on the leg, for example on the back of the knee, and on the calves. Veins can also be located in other areas, such as at the temples of the forehead. Veins on hands can also be a cosmetic problem. Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they are smaller and closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins. Varicose veins can result from anything that causes a weakening of those valves, including:
If it's any consolation, if you have varicose veins or venous reflux disease, you are not alone. Over half of American men and women over the age of 50 have these conditions.
Some varicose veins are simply a cosmetic problem. But severe issues can also develop. Blood clots are a risk. Sometimes sores or ulcers can develop. The veins can also cause pain. Your legs might feel swollen or tire easily.
How can you treat varicose veins?
A doctor who specializes in vein diseases or phlebology can treat varicose veins. There are a number of treatment options for varicose veins, which are described below.
Sclerotherapy for varicose veins
Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for varicose veins. In this procedure, a doctor injects a solution into the vein. This solution basically seals the vein closes, which stops the flow of blood. As the vein turns into scar tissue, it starts to fade. You may need more than one treatment. Microsclerotherapy is another variation. Neither procedure requires anesthesia. But there can be side effects, including stinging or bruising. Fine lines, wither brows or red, may also develop around the area where the vein was, but these should disappear eventually. If the area becomes inflamed, contact your doctor.
Closure - VNUS, Radiofrequency ablation and laser surgery for varicose veins
Radiofrequency ablation and laser surgery can treat deeper veins of the leg. In closure procedures (VNUS closure is named after the company that makes the medical equipment for this procedure), the doctor puts a very small tube called a catheter into the vein. Once inside, the catheter sends out radiofrequency or laser energy that shrinks and seals the vein wall. Healthy veins around the closed vein restore the normal flow of blood. Veins visible on the surface of the skin, which are connected to the treated varicose vein, should also shrink after treatment in most cases. Closure can be done under local anesthesia. There is a recovery period of several days. Endovenous laser treatment uses lasers to collapse the vein. In closure procedures, you may wear compression stockings afterwards. Generally, you can resume walking and regular activities within a few days.
Surgical ligation and stripping
With surgical ligation and stripping, the varicose veins are tied shut and completely removed from the leg. This does not affect the circulation of blood in the leg. This surgery requires either local or general anesthesia. That means that it has all the side effects of a procedure involving anesthesia. There can also be damage to nerve tissue around the treated vein.
With this surgery, a special light source marks the location of the vein. Tiny cuts are made in the skin, and surgical hooks pull the vein out of the leg. This surgery requires local or regional anesthesia. The vein usually is removed in one treatment. Very large varicose veins can be removed with this treatment while leaving only very small scars. Patients can return to normal activity the day after treatment. Side effects include bruising and numbness.
Endoscopic vein surgery
With this surgery, a small video camera is used to see inside the veins. Then varicose veins are removed through small cuts. People who have this surgery must have some kind of anesthesia including epidural, spinal, or general anesthesia. Patients can return to normal activity within a few weeks.
Preventing varicose veins
After varicose veins are treated, more varicose veins can develop. There are some things you can do to keep this from happening. Exercise improves leg strength and blood circulation, so talk with your doctor about this. Don't gain a lot of weight. If you are overweight, lose the excess pounds. Following a healthy diet can help also. Avoid sitting with legs crossed. Don't stand or sit for long periods of time. Keep your legs elevated when possible. Avoid tight or restrictive clothing, but talk to your doctor about elastic compression hose and support stockings.
Updated January 2013
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