You're trying on bathing suits for that mid-winter getaway and you look down at your legs. "What’s that?" you ask yourself in a panic. "Where did those lumps come from? My legs look like my grandmother's!"
For many women and men, varicose veins are something they never expected, but which are relatively common. In fact, up to 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men in the U.S. are affected by varicose veins.
Varicose veins often look like bumps or lumpy protrusions underneath the skin. Varicose veins often develop when large veins in the leg malfunction and allow blood to pool, a condition that leads to varicose veins. These varicose veins can make your legs feel heavy and tired. Cramping, throbbing and swelling are also common problems.
Heredity is a major contributing factor to varicose vein disease. Women are more often affected by varicose than men usually due to pregnancy. But if you’re someone who has to stand a lot or if you are overweight, you also have a greater chance of developing varicose veins.
Treatments for varicose veins: Then and now
In the past, the treatment for varicose veins consisted of compression stockings and a surgical procedure called stripping. Many people shied away from the surgery, because of discomfort, long recuperation times and significant scarring.
Recently, more advanced treatments have emerged and can be performed in a doctor's office. Among these advances are endovenous laser therapy and ambulatory phlebectomy. "Using today's minimally invasive technology, varicose veins can vanish without all the disadvantages and inconveniences of less modern treatments," says David Klein, MD, the Medical Director of the Vein Therapy & Laser Center of Fairfield County, an affiliate of Norwalk Radiology and Mammography Center. "These are relatively quick, effective outpatient procedures that involve minimal discomfort. After treatment, patients can walk out of the office and resume their normal activities. Their legs look and feel better sooner and with little or no disruption to their busy schedules. It's very rewarding when advancements in medical technology enable us to provide an alternative that’s far superior to older treatments."
With endovascular laser therapy, a tiny laser fiber is inserted into a vein through a small puncture. Energy pulses from the tip of the laser seal off the malfunctioning vein, allowing the body to re-route the blood to other more healthy veins. The procedure is done with local anesthesia. Patients wear compression stockings for a short time after the procedure to promote faster healing.
An adjunct procedure called ambulatory phlebectomy is also done as an outpatient procedure and under local anesthetic. With this treatment, micro-incisions are made in the skin and undesired varicose veins are removed. The incisions are so small that stitches are not necessary and there is virtually no scarring. After the procedure, patients can go back to their normal activities. They may need to wear compression stockings for a short time to promote healing and new blood flow.
How to know which procedure is right for you
Dr. Klein recommends that women bothered by their varicose schedule an initial consultation with a Board Certified Radiologist who specializes in Vascular and Interventional training. The doctor will meet with you to make a preliminary recommendation for your course of treatment. "We use an ultrasound to determine which specific veins are malfunctioning. When our patients have both varicose and spider veins, we usually treat the varicose veins first because they contribute to swelling and enlargement in smaller veins. When we are successful in treating the larger veins, we move on to the smaller ones."
He advises men and women to do their homework before meeting with a doctor. "Patients tell me that our website's info sections gave them a lot of information,"he says. He also advises going to the websites of the American College of Phlebology.
“Winter is the time of the year when many women seriously consider this treatment,” says Dr. Klein. “It makes sense to have it done in the winter, so their legs will be ready for summer. With today’s advances, nobody has to spend the summer in long pants because they're embarrassed by varicose veins. Not anymore,” he says.
The Vein Therapy Center of Fairfield County is located at Norwalk Radiology and Mammography Center, at 148 East Avenue in Norwalk, Connecticut. Norwalk Radiology and Mammography Center is a full-service diagnostic imaging center staffed by fellowship trained radiologists who provide digital mammography and CAD, MRI, CT, digital ultrasound, bone density evaluation, X-ray and digital fluoroscopy.