Varicose veins are a condition that affects 80 million Americans. They are usually caused by venous reflux disease. This disease causes the valves inside veins to weaken, preventing healthy blood flow. Blood then pools in the diseased veins creating the bulging, discolored appearance typically associated with varicose veins.
Symptoms of this disorder are fairly easy to recognize. The affected veins are usually 3 mm or more in diameter. While, for most sufferers, the unsightly appearance is the largest concern, they can cause other problems. Patients frequently complain of pain, fatigue, and a heavy feeling in the leg. In addition, night cramps and restless leg problems can disrupt sleep. Other people have difficulties with itching and swelling in the damaged areas. Less often, though still prevalent, the disease can cause a compromise of skin nutrition leading to eczema, inflammation, and in severe cases, ulceration of the lower leg.
Medical professionals using non- invasive ultrasound diagnose venous reflux disease. The procedure is painless for the patient and helps doctors determine the location and severity of the problem.
Fortunately for patients, vein stripping is not the only option anymore. There are several for doctors and patients to choose from. Treatments can range from injections to lasers.
Sclerotherapy is an injection performed in the doctor’s office. The solution is injected into the affected veins using small needles. Veins disappear shortly after treatment.
Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy is much like traditional sclerotherapy. The only difference is doctors use ultrasound to visualize the underlying veins. This procedure allows easier delivery and monitoring of the injection.
Another option is endovenus laser. Using a light beam, doctors are able to seal off the veins. The veins then dissolve and are reabsorbed into the body. It requires heating the veins and several treatments to fully benefit the patient.
Radio frequency occlusion, like sclerotherapy, is performed in office. One difference is this procedure requires local anesthesia. A catheter is injected into the vein where the vein is heated causing it to seal shut. The vein then disappears and blood re-routes to healthy veins.
The most well known therapy for varicose veins is stripping, or ambulatory phlebectomy. This procedure is used to remove veins close to the skin’s surface. Tiny punctures or incisions are made on the leg under local anesthesia. The affected veins are then removed through the punctures. The incisions are so small that no stitches are required.
While, unattractive and often painful, varicose veins and venous reflux disease can be treated. Luckily options for patients have grown in the last several years.