For some patients, varicose veins are simply a cosmetic problem. For others, these unsightly blood vessels are also painful and sometimes linked to other medical problems. Treatment options available from a vein clinic include lifestyle change recommendations and medical and surgical procedures. Many individuals begin their treatment with conservative measures.
Conservative Treatment Choices
As many as 60 percent of Americans suffer from varicose veins, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. When they visit vein doctors, known as vascular surgeons, sometimes the initial treatment recommendation is a conservative one. Lifestyle changes such as these cited by PubMed Health are often the first option for dealing with varicose veins and enable some patients to avoid medical or surgical procedures:
- Getting more physical activity. Getting the legs moving improves circulation and muscle tone. It encourages blood to move through veins.
- Shedding excess weight. Being obese or even overweight can hinder blood flow. Losing weight reduces pressure on veins.
- Avoiding tight clothing. Apparel that is tight around the legs, waist, or groin can cause varicose veins to get worse.
- Avoiding extended periods of sitting or standing. It is important to take an occasional break and to avoid crossing the legs while seated.
- Elevating the legs. Whenever possible, placing the legs above heart level and keeping them raised while sleeping, sitting, or resting is helpful.
- Avoiding high heels. Avoiding shoes with high heels and wearing those with lower heels helps tone muscles in the calf that help circulation.
- Wearing compression stockings. Three types are available, each with a different level of pressure. Support pantyhose provide the least pressure. Over-the-counter (OTC) compression stockings provide slightly more. Prescription hose offer the greatest amount of pressure and require a patient fitting. OTC and prescription hose are available at many pharmacies and at medical supply stores.
Other Varicose Vein Treatment Options
When conservative measures cannot control problems associated with varicose veins, physicians are able to offer alternatives. Medical procedures include sclerotherapy to destroy a small varicose vein, laser surgery to case a vein to fade, and endovenous ablation to close off a varicose vessel with lasers or radio waves.
Vascular specialists typically reserve surgery for severe cases. During endoscopic surgery, a device on the end of a camera closes a targeted vein. To remove vessels closest to the skin’s surface, a physician might choose to perform an ambulatory phlebectomy. For decades, vein stripping and ligation was the standard treatment for varicose veins. Fortunately, doctors perform it today only for the severest cases.
It is important to realize that no treatment can prevent the formation of new varicose veins. However, the Mayo Clinic suggests that making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, eliminating extra pounds, following a healthy diet, choosing the right shoes and clothing, and positioning legs correctly can help prevent new vessels.