Varicose veins are caused by weakening of the veins and valves in the legs. When the valves in the veins do not properly keep blood flowing from the legs up to the heart, blood begins to collect in the legs resulting in the buildup of pressure. The veins become enlarged and knotted and are visible near the surface of the skin. In most cases, varicose veins are not serious and do not cause problems; however, they can lead to other health conditions such as blood clots and circulatory problems.
Varicose veins typically appear in the feet, ankles and throughout the legs. They can cause pain, swelling, heaviness, itching and cramps. Most cases do not require medical treatment unless there are serious complications associated with the veins. Chronic inflammation may occur and will require medical care if the veins become ruptured. Many cases of varicose veins are treated with self-care techniques such as elevating the legs and sufficient exercise.
Although most cases do not cause discomfort or warrant immediate concern, many people are bothered by the unsightly appearance of varicose veins. Sclerotherapy is a procedure that uses tiny needles to inject the veins with a chemical sclerant to harden the veins and help them fade away. The treatment lasts about 15 to 30 minutes in length and is performed every four weeks. Some patients see satisfactory results within one treatment while others with more severe cases may benefit from more sessions.
Endovenous laser ablation uses a laser fiber to insert through the skin directly into the vein. The laser heats up the lining of the vein causing it to shrink and fade away. This procedure is more commonly used on larger varicose veins and treatment can take less than an hour to perform.
A procedure called a mini phlebectomy may be used in conjunction with other therapies to treat large, bulging varicose veins. Tiny incisions are made into the skin and superficial veins are removed using vein hooks. It is performed under local anesthesia so pain is minimal. Compression stockings may be used after treatment to minimize any bruising and swelling.