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What's the treatment for varicose veins?

Medical treatment options restore venous circulation to its proper functioning by removing varicose and spider veins and rerouting blood to healthy vessels. Cosmetically, these medical options are best at eliminating existing spider and varicose veins. Some methods eliminate varicose and spider veins by collapsing the affected blood vessel, while other techniques

remove a vein through surgery.

Non-surgical options include sclerotherapy, a painless way to get rid of these vein problems by injecting a chemical into the affected vein to close it. Laser therapy can also be used to collapse small veins in the face and legs. Duplex-guided sclerotherapy is used to access veins in areas that are difficult to reach such as in the knee and groin. Surgical methods include in-office mini-phlebectomy where small sections of the damaged vein are removed through an almost invisible incision. For ambulatory surgery, there is a procedure called ligation and stripping to treat the affected main leg vein and valve. Both non-surgical and surgical treatments are often combined for the best results.

Sclerotherapy. In this procedure, your doctor injects small- and medium-sized varicose veins with a solution that scars those veins. The process closes the veins, forcing your blood to reroute to healthier veins. In a few weeks, treated varicose veins should fade. Although the same vein may need to be injected more than once, sclerotherapy is effective if done correctly. In addition, a new and improved type of sclerotherapy, called microsclerotherapy, uses improved solutions and injection techniques that increase the success rate for removal of spider veins. Sclerotherapy doesn't require anesthesia and can be done in your doctor's office.
Laser surgeries. Doctors are using laser procedures more commonly to close off smaller varicose veins and spider veins, especially on the upper body and the face. In the past, varicose veins in the legs didn't respond consistently to laser treatments, and some doctors doubted whether laser surgery actually worked. Now, however, new technology in laser treatments can effectively treat varicose veins in the legs. Laser surgery works by sending strong bursts of light onto the vein that makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. No incisions or needles are used.

Catheter-assisted procedures. This is one of the newer treatments for varicose veins. The doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) into an enlarged vein and heats the tip of the catheter. As the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to collapse and seal shut. This procedure is usually done for larger varicose veins. Other catheter-assisted methods use a blade to destroy varicose veins or radio waves to close them.

Vein stripping. This procedure involves removing a long vein through small incisions. This is an outpatient procedure for most people. Usually, you're able to resume normal activities in two weeks or less. Removing the vein won't affect circulation in your leg because veins deeper in the leg take care of the larger volumes of blood.

Ambulatory phlebectomy (fluh-BEK-to-me). Your doctor removes smaller varicose veins through a series of tiny skin punctures. Local anesthesia alone is used in this outpatient procedure. Scarring is generally minimal.

Endoscopic vein surgery. You might need this operation only in an advanced case involving leg ulcers. Your surgeon uses a thin video camera inserted in your leg to visualize and close veins. Only small incisions are needed.

When it comes to treatment options for varicose veins, it pays to be a cautious health consumer. Advertisements claiming "unique," "permanent" or "painless" methods to remove varicose veins may be appealing, but they may not measure up to those claims. Before undergoing any procedure, ask your doctor about any health risks and possible side effects.

More information on varicose veins

What are varicose veins? - Varicose veins are veins near the surface of the skin on the legs which have become permanently distended and filled with blood.
What causes varicose veins? - Varicose veins are caused by our upright posture. Varicose veins occur when the valves in your veins malfunction.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins? - Feelings of heaviness or fatigue in the legs, particularly at the end of the day are the most common symptoms of varicose veins.
What's the treatment for varicose veins? - Medical treatment of varicose veins restore venous circulation to its proper functioning by removing varicose and spider veins and rerouting blood to healthy vessels.
How to prevent varicose veins? - Most people can reduce the risk of developing varicose veins, or lessen the severity, with regular exercise, avoid standing for long periods, etc. 
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005