How Are Varicose Veins Treated?

What Is The Treatment For Varicose Veins In My Legs?

Around 1 in 5 women suffer from varicose veins at some stage in their life. A thick bulging vein is known as a varicose vein, smaller minor ones near the surface are referred to as spider veins. They occur when valves in the leg veins fail to function properly, preventing blood from flowing smoothly up towards the heart. Instead, the force of gravity pushes blood downwards, building up pressure in the veins and causing itching, bulging and throbbing pain. The tendency to develop varicose veins can be hereditary, and the problem is exacerbated by many factors, including hormonal changes during pregnancy which dilate the veins (see varicose veins during pregnancy). The primary cause, however, is our upright posture, which places great pressure on the leg valves. The longer you spend on your feet, the more pressure the valves come under and the more likely they are to fail or weaken. This is why varicose veins become more common with age, and among people who spend many hours standing, such as hairdressers and shop assistants.

pictures of spider veins before and after
Before and after picture of a woman who received sclerotherapy treatment for spider veins. About 1 injection is given for every every inch of vein, varying anywhere from 5 to 40 injections per clinical appointment.

You can prevent the swelling from worsening, and sometimes even reduce it, by staying on the move. Walking about rather than standing or sitting for long periods, and flex your calf muscles to improve circulation. Whenever possible, try to sit with your feet propped up above waist level. Try to lie down with legs raised above the level of your heart for 20 minutes in the evening. You may also find elastic stockings helpful to support and ease swollen veins. Avoid hot baths, however, and prevent constipation by eating lots of fiber and taking plenty of liquid with it. If these self-help techniques do not solve the problem, see your doctor, who may then decide to refer you for surgical treatment. Surgical options include (1) vein stripping - large deep veins are removed from the leg; (2) ambulatory phlebectomy - less invasive than vein stripping but still involves cutting the skin, it is used to remove veins nearer the surface of the skin; (3) sclerotherapy - involves injecting chemicals into smaller veins (spider veins) to close them. Alternatively you could opt for (4) laser therapy - a thin catheter is inserted into the vein and laser energy is applied to seal and shut the vein.

Personal Stories

I had spider veins, lots of small thin veins near the surface on my legs which were unsightly and itchy. I had sclerotherapy surgery which worked well. A small needle filled with a gel was injected into the veins. You coud see the blood drain from the vein immediately. Then I had to wear compression stockings for a week. I could have had laser treatment but it's much more expensive. I started getting spider veins as a teenager, but waited until I was 30 before I finally got them treated. Wish I hadn't waited so long, it’s great to be able to wear shorts again.
Jean, Cincinnati

I had a thick bulging vein from one ankle stripped last year. Since then there has been an intermittent pulsing feeling in the area which is really annoying. I did some reading about the subject and it looks like this is quite common after surgery in the ankle area because there are lots of veins there and some may become damaged in the process. I went back to my doctor but he basically said I'd just have to live with it.
Sue, Florida

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