a Leg Up on Varicose Veins
By Jennifer Thomas, HealthScoutNews
the sight or ache of bulging blue varicose veins?
New treatments -- often available at your local dermatologist's
office -- can make getting rid of varicose veins much easier and
less painful than longstanding procedures.
of women today don't realize there are treatments available that
will clear up their legs beautifully," says Dr. Bruce Katz,
director of the JUVA Skin and Laser Center in New York City. "They
can wear shorts, bathing suits without feeling embarrassed. They
don't have to live with those nasty veins."
patients had few options for dealing with varicose veins, says Dr.
Mitchell Goldman, an associate clinical professor of dermatology
at the University of California, San Diego.
One of those
options was a painful surgery called "stripping," in which
the surgeon cut through the skin, tied off the vein and removed
it. Stripping, which required general anesthesia, often left scars
and meant weeks of recovery, Goldman says.
now use radio frequency devices and lasers to eliminate different
types of varicose veins. The procedures, which take about an hour,
are done under local anesthesia and patients can walk out of the
one patient who did a marathon a week later," says Goldman,
who is also director of the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of La
Jolla, Calif. "There is no scarring, no down time, no pain,
as long as you go to the right doctor, a dermatologist or vascular
surgeon who specializes in veins."
For the deepest,
largest veins, doctors are now using radio frequency devices. Using
ultrasound imaging for guidance, doctors thread a catheter through
the vein. The radio frequency device at the end of the catheter
heats up the inside of the vein. The heat then seals the vein, which
later shrivels up and is absorbed into the body.
surface veins, doctors are turning to laser surgery.
The lasers work
like the radio frequency device. Again, using ultrasound for guidance,
the doctors thread a tiny, fiber-optic laser through a catheter
into the vein. The laser heats up the vein from the inside, causing
scar tissue to form and the vein to disappear.
can hurt on big veins," Goldman says. "It's only appropriate
to use on the tiny veins that remain after sclerotherapy."
is a widely accepted treatment that doctors have been using for
decades. A chemical solution is injected into the vein with a very
fine needle. The chemical causes scar tissue that is eventually
absorbed into the body. When the procedure works, the vein becomes
barely noticeable within a few weeks or months. But the treatment
doesn't work on all varicose veins, Katz says.
develop when the valves in veins are damaged and begin to leak,
push blood up to the heart using a system of one-way valves. But
when these valves are damaged, the backflow of blood pools in the
veins, increasing pressure and causing the veins to expand and push
to the surface. As the blood pools, the valves leak more, making
sure why this happens, although genetics is believed to play a role,
whether mild or severe, almost always occur in the legs. And women
are more likely to develop them than men. By age 55, 50 percent
of women and about 15 percent of men are afflicted with the condition.
Doctors believe female hormones may play a role in the creation
of varicose veins because birth control pills, pregnancy or hormone-replacement
therapy seem to exacerbate the problem.
For some, varicose
veins are mainly a cosmetic issue. But for others, varicose veins
can cause pain, from dull, throbbing, tender legs to a burning sensation.
The worst cases can cause skin ulcers.
people think of varicose veins as the ones you can see through the
skin, they can also be buried deep within the legs, Goldman says.
What To Do
There are several
things you can do to help prevent varicose veins and to give yourself
relief, short of seeing the dermatologist, says Dr. Wilma F. Bergfeld,
head of clinical research at the Cleveland Clinic's department of
dermatology in Ohio. She recommends that you:
- Wear support
stockings from first thing in the morning until you go to bed.
- Walk at least
three times a week for 20 minutes, and keep your weight within
- Avoid standing
or sitting in the same position for more than 20 to 30 minutes.
- Elevate your
legs whenever possible.
- Avoid high-heeled
shoes, which can decrease the pumping ability of the calf muscle.
chronic, progressive problem and you really need to take care of
it," Bergfeld says.
For more information
about varicose veins, check out the
American Academy of Dermatology, or the
National Library of Medicine.
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