New Treatments for Varicose Veins
If you're "vein" or in pain, varicose veins are more easily treated now than in the past.
What Causes Varicose Veins? continued...
During pregnancy, Weiss says the increased blood volume the
mother is circulating for herself and her fetus can make veins bulge. Sitting
with a full uterus on the top of the thighs also does not help blood return to
the heart (varicose veins that pop up during pregnancy usually deflate in three
months, although new pregnancies can bring them on again, sometimes to
Aging, obesity, and prolonged standing can also cause leg veins
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you had a mother or grandmother treated for varicose veins
and thought the treatment sounded worse than the disease, take heart. Times are
changing. "We now use duplex ultrasound to look at the circulatory system
of the leg," Weiss says. This means taking a sharp, two-dimensional picture
instead of a doctor listening to blood flow in the leg with a Doppler device
and trying to decide which veins are affected and where.
Duplex ultrasound is also a boon, says Sandy S. Tsao, MD, an
instructor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and assistant in
dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She says this is
because knowing the condition of the exact vein affected can help the doctor
determine which treatment to use.
In the old days, a flexible metal rod was inserted into the
vein at the groin level, passed through the vein and taken out the other end,
where a metal cap was screwed on. The rod was then pulled back through the leg,
stripping the vein out through the groin incision. With the vein gone, the
deeper circulatory systems took over and the wormy mass was not longer
Stripping is hardly ever done anymore. "We have really
widened the frontiers!" Tsao exclaims. Now, a thin catheter may be inserted
into the affected vein and the whole inside of the vein, called the lumen,
heated by radio waves, which shrinks the tough collagen in the vessel wall and
causes it to collapse and re-absorb. Anesthesia mixed with fluid is injected
first to make the procedure painless and, at the same time, press the blood out
of the vein. Scarring is almost imperceptible, although there may be some
bruising and the vein may take eight weeks to re-absorb.