Many women have resorted to drastic measures in dealing with unsightly varicose veins and spider veins. They have surrendered swimsuits and shorts even on the hottest days of summer. Some women increase their chances of contracting skin cancer; they spend hours in tanning salons in hopes that a tan will mask abnormal veins.
Veins are an integral part of the vascular system. After the arteries deliver blood to your extremities, the veins channel blood back to the heart using one-way valves. When these valves fail to open and close properly, blood can gather in the veins. The medical term for these enlarged veins is “varicose.” These veins are more than unsightly; they can also be painful. Symptoms include feelings of fatigue, heaviness, aching, burning, throbbing, and cramping. Severe cases can lead to skin conditions such as eczema and inflammation.
Until recently only surgical techniques available caused excruciating pain and mandated a long recovery time were available. Traditional techniques include sclerotherapy and laser treatment. For women who suffer from these unsightly veins, there are now other options, including Transilluminated Powered Phlebectomy.
Sclerotherapy, a relatively pain-free procedure with minimal recovery, can erase or significantly fade varicose veins and spider veins in. A caustic solution is injected into the vein to irritate and eventually collapse the treated vein. Four to six sessions that are a maximum of 45 minutes are usually needed. Sessions are two to four weeks apart and require anywhere from five to 150 injections each.
Transilluminated Powered Phlebectomy:
A new approach called the transilluminated powered phlebectomy removes the vein using a small surgical device while viewing the varicose vein using an illuminating light. This method requires fewer incisions and a short operative time. A patient’s recovery time is brief, and he or she experiences generally good cosmetic results.
Laser treatments available for spider veins aim a light beam at veins to heat and destroy them. Depending on the size of the vein, pulsed dye, long-wavelength, and high-intensity pulsed light beams are available. Again, four to six sessions are usually needed for optimal treatment.
For a speedy recovery from sclerotherapy, patients should wear high compression stockings and delay high impact exercise for a month after completing treatment. Laser therapy patients can resume daily activities immediately.
Although minimal complications are associated with sclerotherapy and laser treatment, neither treatment offers a permanent cure; annual visits to curb reappearing veins are usually needed. A patient can expect a 50 to 90 percent improvement in varicose veins with gradual fading. Spider veins can disappear completely. The transilluminated powered phlebectomy also offers a more permanent cure.
Antiquated surgical techniques are very painful and cannot guarantee a permanent end to unsightly veins either. An ambulatory phlebectomy makes tiny cuts along a vein and removes the troubled portions. A vein stripping will pull entire veins out of the leg and is the most painful of the procedures. Patients usually spend a few days in the hospital and are bed-ridden for several weeks at home after treatment. Still, recurrence of diseased veins is possible.
Spider veins are more common in women than in men. Pregnancy and birth control pills, radiation therapy and steroid creams can increase incidence of the unsightly veins.
Controlling weight, exercising regularly and putting the feet up when possible will help lessen severity of both spider veins and varicose veins.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, ed. Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Simon & Schuster, NY. 1999.
Ross-Flanigan, Nancy. “Remedies.” Health. May 2000. 96-8.