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It's More Than Cosmetic: Treating Varicose Veins

Jul 14, 2018 12:00AM

For most people, varicose veins are merely a cosmetic issue. They do not like the look of purple bumpy veins on their legs, and it is estimated that about one out of every five adults live with varicose veins. But for others, it can be a painful condition, and if the flow of blood through veins becomes worse, problems such as leg swelling and blood clots can result. 

Varicose veins are more common in women, often in those with a strong family history of varicosities, and they typically occur after pregnancy. Other than the unsightly bulging, other symptoms can include swelling and pain—especially when individuals are on their feet for extended periods. This malady often starts with the failure of proper blood flow in the veins in the lower extremities. Early on, the skin pigmentation darkens, usually on the medial aspect of the lower third of the leg. The pigmentation is followed by itching and skin irritation. If left untreated, it may progress to a painful, and difficult-to-heal, ulceration. 

In the past, treatment options for varicose veins have focused on a surgical procedure to remove the diseased vein. Elastic support stockings or boots have also been used to apply external support.

But now minimally invasive treatments are allowing patients to avoid surgery, general anesthesia and a lengthy recovery period. Medical laser technology and a minimally invasive approach can deliver laser energy into the diseased vein segment, causing the incompetent vein to close while your body automatically reroutes the blood to other healthy veins. 

One such minimally invasive procedure—known as Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)—takes about 45 minutes and can be performed as an outpatient procedure. Local anesthesia is used, and only a small needle puncture is needed to access the vein. A thin laser fiber is inserted into the vein, and then the laser light is emitted through the fiber. While the patient might feel some unfamiliar sensation, it is not painful, and there is no recovery period. A small bandage is placed on the needle puncture site, and the patient can leave as soon as the procedure is over. In fact, most return to normal activities the following day. Best of all, there is minimal discomfort, no surgery, no downtime and no more varicose veins.

If you suffer from varicose veins, you don’t have to live in pain or discomfort. Contact your health care provider to begin a treatment plan that works best for you.

The following was brought to you by the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center.