Many people have heard of vein stripping for what is commonly known as “varicose veins,” however, a newer, less-invasive technique that uses thermal energy called endovenous laser ablation or endovenous radiofrequency ablation has been found to be just as effective as surgery at removing damaged veins.
This varicose vein treatment uses radiofrequency or laser energy to cauterize and close abnormal veins in the legs. It may be used for cosmetic purposes, but it is most commonly used to help ease varicose vein related symptoms such as aching, swelling, skin irritation, discoloration or inflammation. Endovenous ablation is safe, less invasive than conventional surgery and leaves virtually no scars.
Your arteries and veins are responsible for circulating blood through the body. Where arteries move oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body, veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. The larger veins have valves to help keep blood moving against gravity and toward the heart. Over time, vein walls and valves can weaken or become damaged, resulting in chronic venous insufficiency, where blood no longer moves properly back towards the heart. As a consequence, abnormal amounts of blood remain pooled in the legs – increasing pressure in the legs. This added pressure not only leads to abnormally dilated veins in the form of varicose veins, it can also lead to medical issues.
Vein disease is progressive, so the sooner you seek treatment the lesser your chance of developing more symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms of chronic vein insufficiency may include:
- Varicose veins
- Leg aches or cramping
- Heaviness or tiredness
- Leg swelling and/or open sores
- Skin discoloration
- Skin ulcerations
What are the risk factors?
There are many factors that place a person at risk for developing chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Gender and age may increase your risk. For example, females are more likely than males to develop the disease due to fluctuations in hormone levels. Other factors that may increase your risk of CVI include:
- Family history
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Prolonged standing
- Obesity or excess weight
- Current or previous pregnancies
How can I manage or prevent vein disease?
Many individuals can manage vein disease by taking conservative measures such as:
- Manage body weight
- Exercise regularly, focusing on exercises that work your legs (like running or walking)
- Elevate your legs whenever possible
- Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
- Avoid clothes that are tight around the waist, groin or legs
- Avoid shoes that limit use of the calf muscles (i.e. high heels)
- Eat a diet low in salt and rich in fiber
What is the treatment?
Dr. Howard Sun, Interventional Radiologist at the TRA Interventional & Vascular Clinic explains in more depth. “We use noninvasive imaging with ultrasound to determine whether the valves in your veins are weakened or damaged. If so, our vein specialists can then tailor a treatment plan specific to your needs. In the proper clinical situation, we may perform endovenous ablation to treat your abnormal veins, putting an end to your discomfort and setting you on a path to healthier (and better looking) legs in less than an hour.”
Studies show endovenous venous ablation is as effective and durable as traditional surgical vein stripping, without the high cost, pain, and lengthy recovery of traditional surgery. There is no hospital stay, no lengthy recovery, and no large scars. TRA Medical Imaging strives to stay at the forefront of medical technology and also offer the latest in non-thermal venous ablation techniques such as VenaSeal, which uses a medical adhesive to close the vein rather than heat energy.
What’s the difference between spider veins and varicose veins?
Varicose veins are large, raised, swollen blood vessels that twist and turn. They usually develop in the legs and can be seen through the skin, while spider veins are smaller, red, purple, and blue vessels that also twist and turn. Spider veins are easily visible through the skin, as well.
Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive treatment used to treat varicose and spider veins. The procedure involves the injection of a solution directly into the affected veins, causing them to shrink and eventually disappear. It is used to improve the cosmetic appearance of spider veins and to relieve some of the symptoms associated with spider veins, including aching, burning, swelling and night cramps. It is the primary treatment for small varicose veins in the legs.
Michele B., a patient shares her experience, “I was treated by Dr. Sun for my spider veins back on June 15, 2011. The procedure was done in the office in about 30 minutes. It was painless and I went right back to work. The results were amazing and the unsightly veins have not returned. I would recommend this to anyone who has spider veins that they would like minimized.”
Is varicose vein treatment covered by insurance?
The cost for endovenous vein ablation is less expensive than vein stripping surgery done in a hospital setting. It is less invasive and the recovery time is nominal. The procedure is an outpatient procedure and lasts about an hour and a half.
Many individuals are able to go back to work the next day or the same day with the spider vein treatment. When performed for medical reasons, varicose vein treatment is covered by many insurance companies. The removal of spider veins, usually done for cosmetic reasons, is not generally covered by insurance. Check with your insurance company to determine which treatment options are covered under your plan.
TRA’s Interventional and Vascular clinic on Union Avenue in Tacoma offers complimentary vein consults. This is a good opportunity to learn more about the procedures offered, their benefits and whether you are a candidate.
More information is available at Radiolgoyinfo.org.