Varicose Veins

Understand varicose vein treatments

Varicose veins are enlarged and painful veins that are most often located in the leg, but may occur elsewhere. Veins become varicose when the leaflets of the valves no longer function properly, allowing blood to flow backwards and enlarge the veins. This condition is most common in the superficial veins of the legs because they are exposed to high pressure while standing.

Varicose vein treatments aren't necessarily considered cosmetic surgery. Besides being unsightly, varicose veins may also become itchy and cause pain while walking or standing. Scratching varicose veins can result in ulcers; however, serious complications are a rare occurrence.

Treating varicose veins involves either stripping them from the body or using sclerotherapy to render the veins less noticeable.

Cost of Varicose Vein Treatments

Varicose vein surgery costs are anywhere from $600 - $2,000 per leg plus potential charges for anesthesia. These costs increase depending on the number of veins to be removed and the country where the procedure is performed, along with the reputation and experience of the surgeon. Most procedures are performed on an outpatient basis.

Patient Evaluation

A doctor will examine the patient to determine the severity and number of varicose veins that need to be treated. Noninvasive vascular tests are often used to determine the potential effectiveness of surgery or the best methods to treat the afflicted veins. It's important for the doctor to discover if there is any threat of deep vein thrombosis before committing to any particular form of treatment.

If the patient experiences no physical symptoms, then varicose vein surgery will be elective, or possible to treat with alternatives treatments. It's important to note that even mild symptoms can gradually increase in severity to the point where surgery becomes the only option.

The Procedure for Treating Varicose Veins

There at two main methods of treating varicose veins: varicose vein removal or sclerotherapy.

Vein removal is a procedure where the problematic veins are surgically removed with a flexible device that passes through the vein and pulls it out through an incision in the groin area. This process is performed under local anesthesia or an epidural. The blood is then forced to circulate through the remaining healthy veins.

Sclerotheraphy for varicose veins is a non-surgical means of treatment. A fine needle is used to inject hypertonic saline or Sotradecol directly into the lining of the offending vein. The vein then swells, clots and becomes scar tissue that will visibly fade from the skin.

The duration of the procedure ranges from one to two hours depending on the extent of the treatment and whether one or both legs are involved.

Risk of Varicose Vein Treatments

Those opting for the surgical removal of their varicose veins have the same risks as with any other form of body surgery involving the use of anesthesia: risk of infection, nausea and potential vomiting. Other risks include scarring or even blood clots at the small incision sites.

Side effects from sclerotherapy often depend on what type of injection is used during the procedure. Sotradecol may occasionally cause severe allergic reactions, and other solutions may burn or permanently stain the skin if the needle isn't inserted properly. Sclerotherapy has also been known to lead to blood clots.

Lastly, there is a risk of varicose vein reoccurrence that greatly increases over time. There is no scientifically proven method that is 100 percent free of reoccurrences.

Recovering from the Operation

For surgical procedures, the patient will be monitored until the effects of the anesthesia wear off. Your leg may feel stiff and tender, requiring the use of painkillers. It's recommended that you walk for 30 minutes up to three times a day and avoid standing still for long periods of time. Elevating your feet above your hips when sitting also helps to speed up recovery and keeps the blood from pooling in your leg, lessening the blood pressure near the healing wounds.

After sclerotherapy, the affected area is wrapped in compression bandages to encourage the vein walls to stick together. Compression support hose may need to be worn for up to two weeks. Swelling and bruising are common. Moderate exercise such as walking is necessary after treatment; elevating the affected legs while sitting is also recommended.

Alternative Procedures

Alternative treatments for varicose veins may include:

  • Elevating the legs for temporary relief.
  • Wearing compression stockings to improve swelling and circulation issues caused by varicose veins.
  • Taking anti-inflammatories including aspirin or ibuprofen; this carries the risk of intestinal bleeding.
  • Very small varicose veins, or spider veins, can be treated with laser therapy.

Always consult your doctor and get a proper diagnosis before choosing any surgical or non-invasive treatment for varicose veins.