March 30, 2004 (Phoenix) -- With summer fast approaching, many people look forward to shedding winter's layers of clothing for shorts and swim suits, but for many people whose legs are marked with varicose veins these items are dreaded wardrobe choices. But help is now available.
A new minimally invasive laser surgery procedure may change the lives for an estimated 25% of adult women and 15% of adult men with varicose veins.
Speaking at this year's Society of Interventional Radiology meeting, Kenneth Todd, MD, an interventional radiologist at Southwest Vein and Laser Center in Dothan, presented results from a study of 270 people with visible varicose veins treated with a minimally invasive laser surgery treatment.
In the study the success rate a month after treatment with laser surgery was 100%. And a year later, 261 of the 270 patients had no evidence of varicose veins.
Varicose veins are prominent, rope-like veins that have lost their ability to recirculate blood. As a result of malfunction of these veins, gravity causes blood to pool in these bulging, blue-looking veins which can be visible at the surface of the skin.
Varicose veins can be uncomfortable causing itching, throbbing, swelling, and leg fatigue and heaviness. In general having a family history of varicose veins is a risk factor -- but other factors include being a female, obese, or pregnant. More severe cases can also be associated with skin ulcerations.
Until recently the treatment for varicose veins was surgery that removed the incompetent veins or cut off blood flow to the veins by injecting chemicals into the vessel, a procedure called sclerotherapy. Removal of the veins, called stripping, is done under general anesthesia and involves an incision in the groin as well as many small incisions in the lower leg. These procedures require a hospital stay and are often painful.
Robert Vogelzang, MD, professor of radiology at Northwestern Medical School in Chicago tells WebMD that the problem with both of these older procedures is that they also often don't solve the problem and patients will require repeat treatments. Simply cutting or stopping the blood supply to the surface can result in other veins becoming just as twisted and diseased as the original vessels, he says.