It is estimated that nearly half of all adults suffer from some type of vein issue. For those who have varicose veins, there are several choices in varicose vein therapy. Compression stockings, sclerotherapy, surface laser treatments, perforate-invaginate (PIN) stripping, ambulatory phlebectomy, surgical ligation, radiofrequency techniques and internal laser techiques are all used to treat varicose veins.
Varicose veins occur when there are weak or damaged valves in the veins. They appear enlarged and twisted and often are bluish or flesh-colored. Most commonly, patients who see a doctor for varicose vein therapy have them on their thighs, inside of the legs or back of the calves.
Most varicose vein treatments begin with the use of compression stockings. These stockings are tight enough to provide pressure to the offending areas. Depending on the severity of the condition, compression stockings come in a variety of different levels of pressure.
Sclerotherapy is one of the most common treatments in varicose vein therapy. A needle is used to inject a chemical into the vein that causes the vein walls to swell and, ultimately, to seal shut. The flow of blood is stopped, and the vein turns into scar tissue and fades away.
Surface laser treatment is a varicose vein therapy that is reserved for smaller varicose veins. By using a laser, a doctor can send strong, short bursts of light into the vein, making it fade away. There are a couple of potential problems with this treatment. One is that not all skin shades respond well to laser treatments, and the other is that the heat from the laser can be quite painful.
Surgical approaches to varicose vein therapy include PIN stripping, ambulatory phelbectomy and surgical ligation. In PIN stripping, a PIN stripper is sewn to the end of a vein and literally pulls the vein out of the skin. When a doctor opts to use a procedure called ambulatory phlebectomy, he makes a tiny slit in the skin around the varicose vein and uses a hook to pull the vein out through the slit. Surgical ligation refers to the procedure in varicose vein therapy in which varicose veins are tied shut before being removed.
When treating deeper varicose veins, a doctor might use radiofrequency or laser techniques. The doctor puts a small catheter into the vein, threads a probe into it and sends either radiofrequency or laser energy to seal off the offending vein. This type of varicose vein therapy works well because after the problem vein is closed off, the healthy veins around it take over to ensure normal blood flow.