If you have varicose veins, you may find that pants and dark pantyhose can offer cosmetic solutions, but they aren’t much help in soothing your legs when they’re sore and tired. What’s more, varicose veins can sometimes lead to skin ulcers, which need immediate medical attention.
Generally, most people don’t require more than self-help solutions like compression stockings or exercise, which can ease the discomfort of varicose veins. But if you’d like to rid yourself of varicose veins, whether for medical or cosmetic reasons, there are several surgical and less invasive options for treating them. Here’s a rundown of some common treatments:
These procedures can be done in your doctor’s office and require no anesthesia. Your doctor injects a special solution into the problem vein. The vein’s lining swells and sticks together, causing the vein to seal shut, shrink and fade over a few weeks. Veins may need to be injected more than once. Microsclerotherapy, a newer procedure, involves finer needles and different solutions. Side effects of either procedure can include temporary stinging at the injection site, bruises, skin ulcers and spots or lines that usually disappear.
Your doctor directs a strong burst of light into the vein, causing it to break down and disappear. Laser therapy, which may involve five treatments, is done in your doctor’s office and usually takes 15 to 20 minutes, after which you can return to normal activity. Redness or swelling generally disappears within a few days of treatment. Other discoloration disappears within one or two weeks.
If you have very large varicose veins, your doctor may choose to remove them by surgical ligation and stripping, which usually doesn’t involve an overnight hospital stay. Your doctor makes incisions in your leg, ties veins shut and then removes them. (Your blood will circulate through other veins in your leg.) Side effects are rare but can include bleeding and blood congestion, which usually resolve on their own, and nerve tissue damage around the treated vein. You may have permanent scars.
Also called mini-phlebectomy, ambulatory phlebectomy involves your doctor making tiny incisions in your leg and pulling out veins using special surgical hooks. Since this is an outpatient procedure, you can usually resume normal activity the day after treatment. Side effects are similar to those involved in surgical ligation and stripping.
Your doctor will advise you about the best treatment for you, depending on your veins’ size and location. Although new veins can grow after any treatment, doctors report high success rates for all these methods.