Diseases and conditions

Varicose veins

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged veins that are clearly visible just under the surface of the skin. For some people, they cause pain, blood clots, or sores. This ailment usually occurs in the legs, but also can appear in other parts of the body.

Varicose veins are a common condition caused by problems with the valves within the veins. Veins have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing toward your heart. If the valves are weak or damaged, blood can back up and pool in your veins, which causes them to swell.

Many factors can raise your risk for developing varicose veins, including family history, older age, female gender, pregnancy, obesity, prolonged standing or sitting, blood clots and prior trauma.

Treatment

Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who deliver minimally invasive treatments with less risk, less pain and less recovery time than traditional surgery to treat conditions that impact a person’s quality of life.

Endovenous laser ablation treatment (EVLT)

EVLT is a minimally invasive treatment that uses heat to close off problematic veins and relieve the symptoms they cause. Using imaging guidance (guided by x-ray images), the interventional radiologist threads a thin laser fiber into the problem vein through a tiny needle. Next, the radiologist numbs the length of the vein to minimize discomfort during the heating process. Finally, the laser heat causes the vein to close. Once the problem vein is closed, blood will flow through the remaining healthy veins. This is all accomplished while patients rest comfortably. Return to most normal daily activities is allowed immediately.

Radiofrequency ablation is a similar treatment, using a fiber that emits radiofrequency energy instead of a laser fiber.

Non-thermal treatments

A variety of non-thermal treatment options are also available for varicose veins. These treatments include:

  • VenaSeal cyanoacrylate: Injects medical glue into the vein to cause closure.
  • Clarivein: Guides a rotating catheter, which is a small, flexible tube, inside the vein to evenly disperse a chemical solution that results in complete closure.
  • Varithena: A foam material is injected into a varicose vein to improve symptoms or appearance.

The main advantage of all of these techniques is the avoidance of multiple needle sticks for local anesthesia. There is also decreased risk for potential nerve damage that can occur with burns.

Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is the direct injection of a chemical irritant into a vein to close the vessel. This technique is often used to treat smaller veins such as telangiectasia (spider veins). A variety of materials can be used to irritate the vein lining, which causes them to shrink and close. The solution is administered through a tiny needle.

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