The development of varicose veins can cause stress and frustration for those that suffer from the condition. While many individuals that struggle with varicose veins aren’t happy with the aesthetic change that comes along with the development of these specific veins, others are looking for solutions to remove the problematic vessels due to the fact that they often come with painful symptoms included. From swelling to bulging alongside cramping and discoloration under the skin, varicose veins often arrive with two separate, yet intricately connected issues that prospective patients are looking to deal with.
While varicose veins can be found in men and women alike, as of 2019, the American College of Phlebology estimates that up to 50% of women in the United States suffer from varicose veins or an underlying venous insufficiency that requires attention. With this number rising, varicose veins have become more of a household issue than ever before. While once upon a time, patients would have been faced with vein stripping as the exclusive solution to removing painful varicose veins, today, patients enjoy a much longer list of potential options that are not only far less invasive than vein stripping, but include high success rates and short recovery times.
Understanding Why Varicose Veins Develop
It’s no secret that the human body is an intricate network of systems, but when it comes to understanding and treating varicose veins, diving into the reason behind their occurrence is key to picking the best plan of action. Where arteries are vessels charged with carrying blood away from the heart and out to the many organs and muscles throughout the body, veins are charged with returning the oxygen-deprived blood back to the heart successfully. While smaller veins near the surface of the skin carry about 10% of blood back to the heart, the larger veins deeper in the body have the more robust job of carrying up to 90% of used blood back to the heart from the lower extremities including the legs. Gravity isn’t necessarily helpful when it comes to getting the blood flowing the direction it needs to go, so larger veins are equipped with a collection of one-way valves to encourage blood flow in the right direction. When one of the valves malfunctions, it’s considered a venous insufficiency. Blood immediately begins to flow the wrong direction, following gravity and tends to pool in the legs. The pressure of this pooling can ultimately lead to the development of painful varicose veins.
Before a treatment plan is put into place, it’s likely that a cosmetic physician will perform a non-invasive ultrasound examination of the lower extremities. This technique allows a physician to quickly identify problematic venous areas far below the surface of the skin, beyond visible varicose veins, that may be contributing to painful symptoms. These deeper veins may not yet be apparent at the surface of the skin but could very well be contributing to an individual’s overall discomfort.
Previous treatment plans that involved vein m were highly invasive and often came with significant recovery periods as well as scarring and the potential for severe nerve damage at the treatment site. This procedure involved putting a patient under general anesthesia before creating a significant incision along the leg and physically removing the problematic vein.
Today, patients enjoy minimally invasive treatment options that come with the added benefit of a quick recovery and little to no scarring or pigment discoloration at the surface of the treatment area.
Endovenous Laser Ablation
Those patients looking to reduce the appearance of varicose veins or eliminate them entirely may be recommended Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLT) as a potential solution. This outpatient procedure can be performed in the comfort of the cosmetic physician’s office during the course of an afternoon. Once a local anesthetic is applied to the treatment site, the physician makes a tiny incision near the problematic vein and inserts a small probe which then targets the vein using laser energy. The heat of the laser energy encourages the vein to close and eventually collapse. At this point, the vein can naturally be reabsorbed back into the body safely. Once the procedure is complete, patients are often recommended to wear compression bandages or stockings for a set amount of time following treatment to encourage healthy blood flow and quick healing.
Much like EVLT, Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a common modern technique for reducing or eliminating varicose veins. This is also a quick outpatient procedure that’s performed in-office and includes the application of a local anesthetic prior to treatment. Once the area is completely numb, a small probe will be inserted into the tiny incision but instead of laser energy, this probe targets the problematic veins using radiofrequency energy. Similar to EVLT, this technique helps close and eventually collapse the vein so it can be reabsorbed into the body over time. Blood is then encouraged to flow towards the heart using healthier veins without damage occurring to surrounding tissues.
Schedule an Appointment Today
If you’re struggling with varicose veins and considering laser and/or radiofrequency treatment options, be sure to contact Dr. Wright and his team at the St. Louis Laser Vein Center today for more information and to schedule your initial consultation.