What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are
twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. Varicose veins most
commonly develop in the legs and ankles.
How are varicose veins treated?
For most people,
home treatment is effective in relieving symptoms of varicose veins.
Exercising, wearing compression stockings, and elevating the legs are common
self-care measures. Sometimes being overweight can make varicose veins worse.
Your doctor may recommend that you lose weight.
If you have
bothersome symptoms despite home treatment, you may want to consider a surgical
procedure. The following procedures can usually be performed in your doctor's
office or clinic:
- Sclerotherapy. In this procedure, a
chemical (sclerosant) is injected into the varicose vein to damage and scar the
inside lining of the vein, causing the vein to close.
- Laser therapy. Newer techniques using deeper-penetrating lasers have enabled
effective closure of slightly larger leg veins. Laser therapy scars and closes
off varicose veins.
- Microphlebectomy, or stab avulsion. In
this procedure, several tiny incisions are made in the skin through which the
varicose vein is removed. Stitches usually are not required.
- Radiofrequency closure technique. Radiofrequency
energy (instead of laser energy) is used to close off large varicose veins in
Vein ligation and stripping is a
standard surgical treatment for varicose veins. During this surgery, one or
more incisions are made over the vein, and the vein is tied off (ligated) and
all or the diseased part of the vein is usually removed (stripped). This
surgery usually requires
general or spinal anesthesia.
What are the risks of surgical procedures for varicose veins?
The risks of sclerotherapy, endovenous laser therapy, and
the radiofrequency closure technique for varicose veins include:
- Recurrence of varicose veins (fairly
- Blood clots in the veins.
- Numbness at the site of catheter insertion (radiofrequency
closure technique only).
- Bleeding sores (ulceration).
- In rare cases, allergic reaction to the solution injected into
the vein (sclerotherapy only).
- In rare cases, permanent changes in
the color of the skin or the formation of tiny new blood vessels (matting) in
the area that was treated.
The risks of vein ligation and stripping surgery
- Numbness in
the leg, which is usually minor.
- Small scars where the vein was
- Risks of anesthesia.
- Decreased circulation in
the affected leg, resulting in swelling.
People with a history of blood clots in the deep veins
(deep vein thrombosis) or blood clots and inflammation
in a small vein near the surface of the skin (thrombophlebitis) may be at greater risk for problems
related to varicose vein surgery.
If you need more information, see the topic