By Jeffery P. Schoonover, M.D., FAAFP, RVT, RPVI
Do you have aching, painful or restless legs, heaviness, swollen ankles or muscle cramping? Have you stopped enjoying dancing or other physical activities because of leg pain? If so, you may have varicose veins. More than half of all women and about 45 percent of men will suffer from varicose vein disease in their lifetime. A family history and aging increase one’s tendency to develop varicose veins. Other factors include a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, prolonged standing and pregnancy.
Phlebology is the specialized field of venous medicine, recognized by the American Medical Association, which deals with varicose vein disease and related conditions. Vein disorders are not always visible to the naked eye so the first step is to have an examination and diagnostic ultrasound to determine the cause and severity of your vein problems.
The treatments to eliminate varicose veins and all vein abnormalities have improved dramatically in recent years. No longer do most patients need to endure painful surgical vein stripping. State-of-the-art corrective treatments include endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), sclerotherapy, ultrasound guided sclerotherapy and microphlebectomy. With these procedures there is minimal downtime and no sedation so patients are able to return back to their daily activities immediately.
EVLT eliminates the abnormal saphenous vein, which is the source of most varicose vein issues. Using ultrasound technology, a thin laser fiber is guided into the vein through a very small opening to deliver energy to the diseased vein wall, causing the vein to close and eliminating backward blood flow.
Sclerotherapy is a treatment in which a tiny needle is used to inject veins with a medication that irritates the inner lining of the vein and causes it to close. Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy uses ultrasound technology to locate the veins below the surface of the skin while the medication is injected. This procedure is often used in addition to EVLT.
Microphlebectomy is a method of removal of varicose veins at the surface of the skin. Small micro-incisions are made next to the vein and sections of the vein are removed through these tiny nicks. This is performed in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic. Results are immediate.
There is no way to completely prevent varicose veins but if you’d like to keep dancing, watch your weight, exercise regularly, eat a diet high in fiber and low in salt and wear compression stockings.