Many people will suffer from varicose veins during their lifetime – as many as 20% of adults in America alone, according to figures from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and that doesn’t include those who suffer from less prominent spider veins. In some cases, the dark blue or purple coloration and the ropy, bulging appearance of varicose veins do not denote any particular medical concern, nor do they cause any pain. However, the unsightly nature of this condition can definitely cause sufferers to feel embarrassment, hide their bodies, and lose social confidence.
Then there are patients that suffer additional issues related to varicose veins, such as aches, pain, itching, burning, throbbing, cramps, swelling, feelings of leg heaviness, bleeding, or even inflammation and ulcers around the ankles. In some cases, varicose veins could signal serious vascular disease. What’s worse is that varicose veins are often caused by factors beyond our control, such as heredity, age, and gender (women are more commonly affected). Weight gain and sedentary lifestyle could also play a role, so there is some control over these factors, but whatever the reason for the development of varicose veins, most people just want to get rid of them.
The good news is that there are a wide variety of varicose vein treatment options to explore when you visit a reputable clinic like Metro Vein Centers that specializes in treating the condition. Expanding technologies have introduced several minimally-invasive options to serve as alternatives to traditional surgical removal. Here’s what you should know.
Types of Treatment
Varicose vein treatment options run the gamut from inexpensive and completely non-invasive compression stockings, to vein surgery (stripping), which involves incisions that allow offending veins to be removed. Unfortunately, both of these extreme ends of the spectrum have their drawbacks.
While non-invasive options like compressions stockings are obviously preferable, and they do help to stop the formation of new varicose veins by supporting muscles and helping return blood to the heart, they are not terribly effective at getting rid of varicose veins that have already formed. Vein surgery, on the other hand, can be extremely effective, but involve weeks of painful recovery.
This is why many patients prefer the middle ground of minimally-invasive options, which can be effective, affordable, and entail relatively little recovery time. There are several minimally-invasive procedures to consider, including sclerotherapy, endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), and ambulatory phlebectomy.
What to Expect
Before varicose vein treatment can proceed, specialists will first need to perform a non-invasive and completely painless duplex ultrasound to assess the condition of veins, chart blood flow, and help you to determine which form of treatment is best suited to your particular situation. From there you can begin to discuss which treatment is preferable.
One of the most common forms of treatment today is sclerotherapy. This out-patient procedure involves the use of a sclerosant, a medicated solution that is injected directly into varicose veins in order to cause them to collapse, after which they will be reabsorbed into the body. Larger veins may require the use of a foamed sclerosant or the duplex ultrasound machine for guided sclerotherapy.
Treatment can be completed in as little as just a few minutes, but several sessions may be required to completely eliminate varicose veins. This technique is among the least invasive and most effective treatments on the market today, but there are others to consider, as well.
Endovenous laser treatment, also referred to as thermal ablation, is an out-patient technique that requires only local anesthesia. During the procedure, a catheter will be inserted into affected veins. This allows for the application of heat that causes veins to close off, leaving minimal bleeding or bruising. The procedure could be completed in under an hour, after which patients can return home. This treatment has gained popularity over the last several years and has virtually replaced the much more invasive surgical stripping procedure.
Finally, there is ambulatory phlebectomy, which involves the use of small incisions, but requires only local anesthesia. This technique is best suited to superficial, bulging veins, which are removed in sections through small incisions in the skin. This is obviously the most invasive of the minimally-invasive techniques, but it’s effective and it still causes less trauma and scarring than vein surgery.
One of the best reasons to choose a minimally-invasive varicose vein treatment is that the recovery is much faster and less intense than more invasive vein surgery. In all cases, patients can leave the office the same day as the procedure and return home to start their recovery.
The recovery process following sclerotherapy could take about 1-3 weeks and requires patients to wear compression stockings during that time. Some amount of discomfort for the first few days after the procedure is normal, but treatment with over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen can alleviate this symptom.
With EVLT, you can expect to return to normal activities within 24 hours, and walking is encouraged in the first three days after treatment (although patients should avoid strenuous activity and long periods of standing for the first two weeks). Compression stockings should be worn constantly for three days, after which they can be worn only during the day for the next 7-10 days. Some tenderness or tightness of legs is expected and can be treated with non-aspirin pain relievers.
Following ambulatory phlebectomy, patients should allow for 2-3 days of downtime, after which normal activities may be resumed. Compression stockings will need to be worn for two weeks following the procedure. Bruising, swelling, and discomfort are expected after treatment, but applying heat, taking ibuprofen, and elevating legs can help to ease these symptoms. There may be some drainage for up to 48 hours after treatment.
Benefits of Choosing Minimally-Invasive Varicose Vein Treatment
Any varicose vein treatment that proves effective can help to improve a patient’s appearance and confidence, but choosing a minimally-invasive treatment means you will suffer less pain, downtime, and scarring following the procedure. A specialized clinic like Metro Vein Centers not only offers a variety of treatment options like sclerotherapy, EVLT, and ambulatory phlebectomy, but their staff of trained professionals has the knowledge and experience to assess every patient and advise them on the best possible treatment for varicose veins.