Surgery vs. Laser: Which Works Best for Varicose Veins
Unfortunately, varicose veins are an unattractive reality for roughly 60 percent of adults. For some of us, those jagged blue veins running down our legs are more than just an eyesore. Problem veins can cause swelling, cramping or aching in the legs, or may even cause a burning sensation or heaviness. When varicose veins become inflamed and tender, reducing circulation, they need to be treated.
For people with minor vein problems, simple lifestyle changes like wearing support hose (compression stockings), walking regularly and elevating your legs whenever possible can help. For people who are experiencing more severe symptoms, you should consult an experienced vein specialist to find out if surgery or laser will work best for you.
When Laser Works Best
Simple Laser Treatments: If you have tiny varicose veins and spider veins under the surface of your skin, you may see results after a few simple laser treatments. This option is appealing for patients who wish to avoid injections of sclerosing agent as used in sclerotherapy, and don’t mind that results may take longer.
Laser treatments use short pulses of high-energy light to “zap” your veins to make them form scar tissue, shrink and disappear. You may need local anesthesia to minimize any discomfort from the heat of the laser. Laser treatments are generally scheduled every six weeks or more and have minor side effects such as skin discoloration or blistering. Simple laser treatments can be very effective in treating smaller veins, but if you are prone to developing unsightly veins in a certain area, you may require treatments on new varicose veins in the future.
Endovenous Laser Treatments: If you have medium to large varicose veins, endovenous laser treatments may work best for you. These treatments are intended to close off large varicose veins rather removing them in surgery. The procedure is considered less painful than vein ligation or stripping surgery, does not require general anesthesia (full sedation), and has a shorter recovery time. For this deeper laser treatment, the doctor passes a laser fiber through a catheter into the vein, while observing how your vein responds to the laser via an ultrasound screen.
When Surgery Works Best
If you have poor circulation and your veins are too large to respond well to laser treatments or sclerotherapy (injections), a vein ligation or stripping surgery may work best for you. It is important to know that your insurance may not cover this surgery if it is done electively for cosmetic reasons.
Vein ligation or surgery involves tying off or removing segments of a problem vein. When veins are located just under the surface of the skin, the doctor may be able to make a tiny incision for vein removal, avoiding the need for stitches.
Unlike many surgical procedures, vein ligation and stripping does not usually require a hospital stay. While this can be performed as an outpatient procedure, you will probably need to take a few days away from work and your normal activities to rest and heal. Once you resume normal activities, you may be advised to wear compression stockings for a while.
Go here to learn more about treatment for varicose veins or to find a vein specialist!