Non-Surgical Treatment for Varicose Veins

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Varicose veins are generally not a serious condition, though they can impact upon the quality of life of the sufferer. Fortunately, the symptoms which come with the development of the condition are treatable without surgery, but where surgical intervention is mandated, there have been significant developments in non-invasive techniques which minimize any risks associated with surgery and produce excellent results for the patient.

Varicose veins are typically found on the “superficial” veins of the legs, usually seen at the back of the thigh or calf. They are known as superficial because they are close to the surface of the skin as opposed to the “deep” veins which are responsible for transferring the bulk of the blood back up to the heart from the lower limbs. Unfortunately, being so close to the surface of the leg means that they are obvious to anyone looking at them and also that symptoms such as severe itching, discoloration, skin conditions and ulcers become an issue as well as the pain and feeling of heaviness which are typical varicose vein symptoms.

Non-surgical treatment can be split into two main groups: non-invasive surgery and non-surgical treatment.

Non-invasive techniques usually utilize either ultrasound sclerotherapy of endovenous laser treatment.

Ultrasound sclerotherapy involves the use of ultrasound imaging to guide a surgeon in the injection of medicines which serve to strengthen the integrity the blood vessel walls by constricting and tightening the vein. Usually, the medicine is mixed into a foam substrate which must be guided with precision into what has usually become a very twisted and distorted blood vessel. This requires exceptional skill on the part of the surgeon, but the results are extremely good with little if any side-effect or adverse risk on the part of the patient.

Endovenous laser treatment involves the use of a catheter which houses a laser; the catheter is introduced into the superficial vein to be treated, usually in the groin area and using an anaesthetic. As the catheter is withdrawn, the laser “ablates” the varicose vein, i.e. burns it away. As the catheter/laser combination is withdrawn, this strips away the varicose vein.

Stripping away of the varicose vein is a completely routine procedure which has been in practice for over 150 years. It works because the bulk of the blood supply which is returned to the heart from the legs, actually travels through the deep veins in the legs and not via the superficial veins.

Before a sufferer gets to the point where non-invasive procedures are required, there are other therapies which may be used. These therapies and treatments do not deal with the underlying cause of varicose veins but do address the symptoms and can provide relief.

Elevating the legs is one piece of advice to sufferers, and this does usually provide some temporary relief from pain and the feeling of heaviness. The results are only transitory and the relief is temporary.

Exercise is frequently quoted as being beneficial to sufferers, however, while exercising is a good lifestyle choice, there is no evidence that exercise will actually alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins.

It is common for sufferers to be advised to wear a “compression stocking”, which will help to alleviate the swelling of the lower limbs which is associated with varicose veins. Many sufferers object to wearing such a medical stocking and it is unlikely that a lady would want to wear such a stocking to a social occasion or even in private. Caution should be exercised where the sufferer has cardiac issues because the stocking will actually increase the wearers blood pressure due to the compression of the lower limbs.

Anti-inflammatory drugs are also frequently prescribed for suffers, particularly ibuprofen and aspirin, as these “thin” the blood. They are often used in conjunction with a compression stocking, however, long term use of ibuprofen is associated with intestinal problems, including bleeding.

Elizabeth L Perkins/cvtsa

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