Varicose Veins Treatment Options
Among other things, our veins are responsible for bringing blood back to the heart, sometimes working against gravity. When we walk, the muscles in our legs squeeze the veins and help blood flow back into the heart, assisted by a series of valves in the veins. With varicose veins (and with a related condition called chronic venous insufficiency), poorly functioning valves allow the blood to pool in the lower leg and cause symptoms.
Varicose veins can occur in almost anyone, affecting up to 35% of Americans. Some people inherit a tendency to develop varicose veins, while women with multiple children and obese people are at a higher risk.
Varicose veins can cause benign symptoms including discomfort (itching, swelling, burning, leg heaviness) and bleeding, when a vein bursts as a result of minor trauma.
Phlebitis is an uncomfortable but temporary condition marked by veins becoming painful, hot, hard, and discolored. Phlebitis resolves itself within two or three months. Any clots associated with the condition are limited to surface veins, and therefore not dangerous.
Skin ulceration indicate a very severe case of varicose veins. More serious symptoms include the clots in the deep veins ( deep vein thrombosis or DVT ) that are dangerous because they can travel to the heart or lung and require prompt treatment with blood thinners.
A vascular surgeon can diagnose varicose veins after asking about your symptoms and medical history, and performing a physical exam that includes gently probing for problem areas on your legs while you are standing. An ultrasound may also be used to pinpoint problem veins and determine the best way to treat them.
Symptoms worsen throughout the day, and can usually be improved with use of compression stocking or by elevating the feet. If stockings don’t help, there are procedures that can be performed in your doctor’s office to help resolve varicose veins.
Knee-high stockings that provide 20-30 mmHg of compression will often help relieve symptoms such as aching or swelling. These stockings compress the veins and prevent blood from pooling in the legs. If you have insurance, most companies require that you wear compression stockings for at least three months before they will cover any other type of treatment for varicose veins.
If compression stockings provide insufficient relief and if the affected veins are straight enough (determined by the ultrasound), some form of ablation therapy (laser, radiofrequency, or mechanical injection) is an option. In ablation therapy, a catheter is passed along the vein to heat the vein. This process eventually causes the vein to shrink and be absorbed by the body.
If the affected veins are twisted and are not sufficiently straight, sclerotherapy may be recommended. With the help of ultrasound, a small needle is advanced through the vein to inject sclerosant, a chemical that causes the vein to spasm and clot. This type of clot is not dangerous and is broken down by your body’s natural processes so that the varicose vein disappears. Small “spider” veins can be treated in the same way, using a very small needle.
The vascular surgeons at Muskegon Surgical Associates provide exceptional care using state-of-the-art techniques. Contact us to learn more about varicose vein treatment options.