Varicose veins are any veins that have become enlarged and twisted, most commonly ocurring in the legs. This is due to the failing of valves in the veins which normally keep blood flowing in only one direction, among other factors. The most traditional of all the varicose vein treatments available is a surgical technique known as vein stripping. Newer varicose vein treatments are often less invasive and provide a better overall result for the patient. These have slowly been replacing vein stripping as the preferred treatment. Nonsurgical varicose vein treatments are also common, but as such do not offer a cure.
Nonsurgical treatments for varicose veins may include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain and swelling. Elastic stockings can also help push blood through the veins by applying a constant, gentle pressure. They cover the whole leg and are worn throughout the day. These treatments are generally only temporary, however, and if the condition does not improve, then some type of surgical solution may be required.
Vein stripping is an invasive surgical procedure done under local or general anesthesia. It involves making an incision just over the affected vein, and then tying it off -- referred to as ligation -- and removing it from the body. This procedure can sometimes entail an overnight hospital stay, though it is often done in an outpatient context.
In the case of smaller veins, one of the more common nonsurgical varicose vein treatments is sclerotheraphy. This involves injecting a chemical directly into the vein, causing it to close and to no longer carry blood. Another related technique is known as endovenous laser treatment. Guided by an ultrasound image, a doctor performs the procedure by making a puncture into one of the principal veins of the legs, and threading a catheter through to the troubled vein. The catheter holds a fiber which emits laser energy to close the vein, after which the patient is able to leave without an overnight stay, although a bandage must usually be worn for a period of weeks after.
Radiofrequency ablation is another of the non-invasive varicose vein treatments. Used mostly on larger veins, it bears many similarities to laser treatment, including a high success rate and low rates of complications following the procedure. Radiofrequency ablation also has applications in the treatment of cancerous tumors. Despite the advances in varicose vein treatments, however, there is no known way to prevent new varicose veins from forming.