For many people, unsightly veins are a cosmetic annoyance that dampens self-confidence. For others, these painful, throbbing blood vessels interrupt life’s normal activities and are a significant health problem. Quite often, sufferers wonder when is the right time to seek professional varicose vein treatment.
Overview of Varicose Vein Treatment
Around 25 million Americans have varicose veins, according to Cedars-Sinai. A majority of them are women. The most common site is the leg. When a leg valve become leaky for any of several reasons, blood headed for the heart pools behind the valve. As pressure increases, veins bulge and become varicose. The result is a purplish or blue vein with a rope-like appearance.
In most case, these unsightly veins are medically harmless. Sufferers might opt for treatment at a vein clinic for cosmetic reasons. However, some symptoms signal the necessity for professional services from vein doctors, also known as vascular surgeons. MedlinePlus notes these severe symptoms:
- Swelling in the leg
- Pain in the calf or leg after standing or sitting for an extended period
- Changes in skin color of the ankles or legs
- Skin that is irritated, dry, or scale and cracks easily
- Sores on the skin that do not readily heal
- Gradual thickening and hardening of ankle skin
Milder symptoms that indicate the importance of a consultation at a vein clinic include:
- Veins that are visible and swollen
- Mild swelling of the ankles or the feet
- Leg sensations of fullness, aching, pain, or heaviness
How Vein Doctors Can Help
Vascular surgeons can offer a number of options to treat varicose veins for cosmetic or health concerns. The varicose vein treatment recommended for each patient depends on his or her medical circumstances, expectations, and preferences.
For many patients, physicians advise conservative treatment in the form of self-care and lifestyle changes. According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommendation might include one or more of these steps:
- Shedding excess weight
- Avoiding sitting or standing for long periods
- Increasing physical activity
- Elevating the legs
- Avoiding tight clothing
- Wearing compression stockings
When a patient does not respond to these self-care measures or has a more severe disorder, a vascular surgeon might recommend one of these treatments for varicose veins:
- Sclerotherapy involves injecting a chemical that eventually destroys a vein.
- Laser surgery uses bursts of light to close off spider and small varicose veins.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy pulls out smaller veins through tiny skin incisions.
- Endoscopic surgery treats advanced cases of leg ulcers to close and remove veins through small incisions.
- Catheter-assisted procedures involve inserting a tube, then heating the tip to destroy a large vein.
- Vein stripping is rarely performed today and requires removing a long vein through incisions.
For nearly all patients, these are outpatient procedures. It is important, however, to realize that destruction or removal of varicose veins will not prevent the formation of new ones.