Varicose veins are so common that almost everyone knows someone treated for them. Technology has come a long way since the primary varicose vein treatment was vein stripping. While many patients ultimately choose a surgical procedure to get rid of these troublesome blood vessels, others are able to significantly reduce symptoms without surgery.
Varicose Vein Treatment Basics
A majority of varicose veins occur in the legs. A vein’s job is to return blood from the extremities to the heart. When a valve within a vein fails to close properly due to age or other problem, blood traveling upward leaks back into the vessel and pools. As the accumulation grows, vein walls stretch. The result is often a varicose vein.
The Office on Women’s Health states that somewhere between 50 and 55 percent of U.S. women and 40 to 45 percent of their male counterparts have vein problems. Most who seek treatment visit a vein doctor at an outpatient vein clinic. Specialists who treat varicose veins are typically vascular surgeons.
Factors most commonly linked to the development of these bulging red or blue vessels include aging, family history, medical disorders, changes in hormone levels, and carrying excess weight.
Conservative Options Vein Doctors Recommend
None of the varicose vein treatments available will prevent new vessels from forming. However, non-surgical options that reduce discomfort can also help slow the development of new veins.
When a patient visits a vein treatment center for a consultation, the vein doctor will take a medical history as well as perform a physical exam. Tests such as an ultrasound exam might be required. The physician then recommends a treatment plan customized to meet individual needs.
Non-surgical options include:
- Compression stockings: These stockings, when properly fitted, are the most conservative treatment for varicose veins, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Vein doctors recommend either an over-the-counter or a prescription purchase. The most common places to buy them are pharmacies and medical supply establishments. Compression stockings are available as pantyhose, over-the-knee products, or below-the-knee hose and in varying compressions.
- Lifestyle changes: The Mayo Clinic cites a number of lifestyle and self-care options for reducing discomfort. Among them are getting more exercise, losing excess weight, avoiding high-heeled shoes and tight clothing, elevating the legs whenever possible, reducing extended periods of standing or sitting, and steering clear of crossing the legs.
- Sclerotherapy: Vascular surgeons perform this same-day procedure to destroy targeted spider and certain small varicose veins fairly close to the skin’s surface. Sometimes they use ultrasound to guide them in finding veins. The physician uses a very fine needle to inject a special chemical substance known as a sclerosing agent into each targeted vein. This substance irritates the walls of the vein, causing them to stick together and the vessel to close and ultimately disappear.