Varicoses are caused by increased blood pressure in your veins and usually occur in the superficial tissues of your body. The symptoms are not dangerous in most cases, but varicosities can often be caused by reduced function in your heart valves, so if you experience them, it’s a good idea to check for other circulatory issues.
Most commonly, they can be found in the legs and calves, but they sometimes appear in other areas of the body, such as the pelvis, the rectum, the vagina or the esophagus. Often, the main concern is cosmetic, but they can also be painful and cause cramps, swelling and aches in the affected area. What’s more, injuries to the tissue can sometimes take longer to heal.
In the past, the most common treatment was called vein stripping, which involves surgically removing your varicoses by physically pulling them out of your body. However, there have been advances in technology that have made such procedures redundant, and doctors can now treat vein issues in the superficial leg tissue completely without incisions and surgery. Deeper veins may require a minimally invasive treatment.
Your Treatment Options
We distinguish between five main methods of treating varicoses. Which one to use will depend on your personal situation, general health and the condition of your veins. Before deciding on a treatment, you will meet with your doctor, who can assess your varicoses and advise you on the best method of addressing them. Let’s briefly discuss what treatments may be advised.
People with small varicose or spider veins can benefit from a treatment called sclerotherapy, which involves injecting a solution, sclerosant, into the affected area. Sclerosant contains sodium tetradecyl sulfate, a substance that collapses the veins and therefore prevents blood from flowing through them. Your blood will find other paths to travel through and in time, the affected veins will be destroyed by your body’s natural processes.
You may be injected with sclerosant in the form of foam if your veins are larger. Foam sclerotherapy is ideal for people who are looking to get rid of more sizeable veins, as it allows the sodium tetradecyl sulfate to access larger areas. Whether in liquid or foam form, this type of treatment can help to break down the varicosities and thereby improve the appearance of your leg.
Intense Pulsed Light
When treating varicosities with intense pulsed light, or IPL, you make use of the many different wavelengths this light produces to get rid of the veins in question. IPL is almost like the flash made when taking a photo, and produces light that can pass through the outer layer of your skin, the epidermis, without damaging it. It penetrates the veins and heats them up so that they close and your blood can no longer flow through them.
Just like with sclerotherapy, the blood will find other veins and the varicose ones will be destroyed by the body over time. This means that they will fade away over the next few months and you will see the results around 3-6 months after your treatments. One big advantage of IPL is that it can be used both on the legs and the face, and it is also effective for certain other conditions such as angiomas and port-wine stains.
As an alternative, radio waves can be used as a varicose vein treatment. They are transmitted to the affected area through a catheter, which is inserted into the vein after your doctor has completed an ultrasound to confirm the state of your blood vessel. The tip of this catheter is heated up with the radio waves and as it is pulled out, the vein collapses from the heat. This method is pain-free because the affected area will be numbed before the ultrasound.
Similar to IPL, the vein fades away over time, so it may take a few weeks or months to see a result. However, as the vein is broken down by the body, this treatment is a permanent solution.
Endovenous Laser Ablation
Endovenous laser ablation is very similar to radiofrequency ablation, but a different type of energy is used. Instead of radio waves, a laser fiber is passed through the catheter and works to collapse the veins in a similar way, due to the heat given off by the laser energy. There are many similarities between the two treatments, including the fact that they can both be used on varicosities that sit deeper in your leg.
Treatment for Deeper Varicoses
Another treatment that works well on deeper varicoses is called ambulatory phlebectomy, which is minimally invasive but highly effective. Your doctor will make several small incisions in the affected area and remove the varicosities through them. Because the punctures are so tiny, you don’t need extensive recovery time afterward and can get back to your normal activities only hours after the treatment is over.
Your Appointment: What to Expect
Now that you know that there are many different types of noninvasive or minimally invasive treatments for varicosities, you may be wondering what to expect once you make an appointment. This will depend somewhat on the type of treatment that is chosen, but there are some commonalities between all of them. In the vast majority of cases, you will be able to complete the treatment at your local clinic and a hospital visit won’t be necessary.
Before Your Appointment
Before undergoing your treatment, you will visit your clinic and discuss options with your doctor. Make sure to bring all relevant files related to your health and inform your professional about any conditions you have, medicines you take and factors that could affect your treatment such as pregnancy or if you are currently breastfeeding. You may be advised to stop taking certain drugs, such as blood thinners or aspirin, before having your varicosities removed.
During Your Appointment
Most of the time, the treatment can be completed with a simple local anesthetic, so you won’t need to visit a hospital. You will be awake and conscious the whole time and your doctor will be able to talk you through the process. If you are treated with a laser, extra safety measures such as wearing protective glasses will be advised.
After Your Appointment
Depending on your treatment, your leg may need to be bandaged for a few days. In this case, you will have to avoid most types of physical activities, hot baths and whirlpools for the first week after your appointment. To avoid damaging your bandages, taking cold showers and washing with mild soap is usually recommended.
As mentioned above, all of these recommended treatments are non-invasive or minimally invasive, so you won’t need extended downtime. You will be able to restart your normal routine only hours or days after your appointment at the clinic, and the results will show up within a few weeks or months of the treatment date.
Use Diet and Exercise to Support Your Treatment
When you make an appointment to discuss getting rid of your varicosities, your doctor may ask you whether you’ve tried exercise and dietary changes to reduce your symptoms. Before deciding whether you’re a good candidate for treatment, you may be advised to exercise more frequently, which can help to lower your blood pressure and prevent your blood from settling in the legs. Walking, swimming and cycling are good ways to manage your symptoms.
Another thing you may be asked to do both before and after your treatment is to change your diet. Salty foods encourage high water retention, which is very bad for your veins and can contribute to the issue. Instead, eat plenty of foods that are high in potassium, such as lentils, almonds and leafy vegetables. Getting plenty of fiber from foods like seeds and nuts can help regulate your bowel movements and prevent constipation, another cause of vein problems.
Wear Compression Stockings
If you’ve never tried wearing compression stockings, this may be something your doctor will recommend as a part of your treatment and to help you achieve maximum results. The stockings put pressure on your leg and can thus encourage blood flow back to your heart. Wearing knee-high compression stockings is an easy way to help you if you experience pain due to varicose veins because the blood will no longer pool in the affected area.
Other than the stockings, you should avoid tight-fitting clothes and go for loose, non-restrictive clothing. This can encourage your blood to circulate and flow through your body without problems. Also, try to wear flat shoes instead of high heels to make sure you’re not putting extra pressure on the tissue of your ankles and legs.
Keep the Blood Moving
Whether you’ve already undergone varicose vein treatment or are still waiting for your appointment, the most important thing is to keep moving to avoid the blood from pooling in the affected area. Avoid sitting for extended periods of time and instead get up and walk around every hour to aid the circulation of your blood. Another great way to prevent recurring issues is to change your position once in a while.
For example, you could purchase a standing desk and regularly switch between standing and sitting, or you could use a variety of different chairs to make sure your body position changes. In any case, always avoid sitting with your legs crossed, which prevents the blood flow to and from the legs, and try to incorporate exercise into your daily life. Getting varicose vein treatment could be your first step to a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Rid Yourself of Your Painful Varicose Veins
Varicosities are both a cosmetic and medical issue, as they can indicate a circulatory problem and lead to a variety of additional issues. But you don’t have to suffer from this painful condition. There are a number of effective and minimally invasive treatments available that can remove these veins from your body without surgical intervention.
To get started, contact Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, CA, today and set up your initial consultation. Dr. Raymond Shaheen and his competent and experienced team will be more than happy to discuss the various options with you.