Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins filled with blood. While any superficial vein in the body can turn into a varicose vein, veins in the legs are the most susceptible. Walking and standing increase the pressure in these veins. Typically, varicose and spider veins do not pose a health risk. However, for some people, these veins can be a source of aching pain and discomfort. When left untreated, severe cases can lead to further complications. Healthcare providers, such as the Southeastern Institute of Restorative Medicine in Dothan, AL, offer varicose veins treatment.
Treatment for Varicose Veins
Traditionally, doctors treated varicose veins by removing them through a surgical procedure known as vein stripping. During the procedure, the doctor would make small incisions and physically pull the affected veins out of the body. Because of strides made in medical technology, healthcare providers have abandoned vein stripping in favor of minimal or non-invasive treatment options.
Noninvasive treatment options do not require the patient to undergo surgery, nor do they use medical equipment that cuts the skin or physically enters the body. Minimally invasive procedures involve making small incisions in the skin, allowing the doctor to treat veins deeper in the leg. Most non-invasive treatments are more effective against damaged veins that appear closer to the skin’s surface.
Noninvasive and Minimally Invasive Treatment Options
During sclerotherapy, the doctor injects affected veins with a solution called a sclerosant. The sclerosant is a solution that contains sodium tetradecyl sulfate. It works by scarring the vein, causing it to collapse. This forces the blood to find healthier veins to travel through. Once the veins collapse, the body destroys them, and they disappear after a while.
Sclerotherapy is ideal for treating small spider veins, small varicose veins that appear close to the skin’s surface. It also improves the appearance of affected veins in the leg. To treat larger veins, healthcare professionals turn the sclerosant solution into foam before injecting it into veins in a treatment process known as foam sclerotherapy. Foam sclerotherapy is ideal for treating larger veins because foam covers a larger area compared to liquid.
During radiofrequency ablation, radiofrequency energy, also known as radio waves, is transmitted through a catheter. To start the treatment, the doctor numbs the target vein and then uses an ultrasound to get a better view of the leg inside. They then insert the catheter and pass it along the vein. The tip of the catheter is heated with radiofrequency energy. This heats up the wall of the vein as the catheter is pulled out.
The heat destroys the vein by making it collapse and contract. Once the vein is destroyed, it fades away after being absorbed by the body. It takes a while to see the full results from radiofrequency ablation, with the time frame varying from a few weeks to several months.
Endovenous Laser Ablation
The only difference between laser ablation and radiofrequency ablation is the type of energy used. While the latter uses radiofrequency energy, the former uses laser energy. During this treatment process, a laser fiber is passed through the catheter and guided towards the affected veins. The laser energy emitted by the catheter heats up and closes the target vein. Over time, the vein shrinks and is reabsorbed by the body. Both laser and radiofrequency ablation are ideal for treating veins that sit deep in the leg.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
IPL is similar to laser ablation. However, while laser ablation uses laser energy that only focuses on just one wavelength of light, IPL produces light of many different wavelengths. The light produced by an IPL device can be compared with a photo flash. Additionally, the light produced during IPL treatment is less focused and more scattered than light released during laser therapy. IPL light can also penetrate through the first layer of the skin (epidermis) without harming it. This allows the light to reach and impact veins without damaging the skin.
Once the light reaches the target veins, it heats and closes them up, forcing blood to reroute into deeper veins. The destroyed veins fade away over time. Our Vaculaze treatment uses IPL therapy to treat varicose veins that appear on the face and legs. It is also effective against several other vascular lesions, such as telangiectasias, angiomas, leg veins, and port-wine stains.
During this treatment process, the doctor numbs only the leg’s affected parts before making a series of tiny skin punctures. The doctor then removes damaged veins through these tiny punctures. It requires little to no recovery time, allowing you to resume normal daily activity some hours after treatment.
What to Expect During a Noninvasive or Minimally Invasive Treatment
Most noninvasive treatments happen at the doctor’s office while the patient is under local anesthetic.
Providing the doctor with certain information can help improve treatment and prevent complications. Ensure you inform the doctor if you are pregnant, have allergies, or taking any medications (including herbal medicine and supplements). The doctor may ask you to stop taking drugs that interfere with clotting, including blood thinners and aspirin.
As we have mentioned above, most noninvasive treatments happen under local anesthetic. Therefore, the patient is awake during treatment. With the help of an ultrasound, the doctor sees the vein clearly. Before numbing the leg, it will be cleaned. Patients who are treated with lasers are required to wear protective glasses during treatment.
If treatment involved small incisions, the legs might be wrapped with bandages. The bandages should be worn for several days. It is also important to arrange for someone to drive you home after treatment. The doctor might also advise you to avoid strenuous physical activities for several days after treatment. Additionally, the doctor may ask you to avoid whirlpools or hot baths. It would be best if you took cool showers or bathe with mild soap and lukewarm water.
You can also manage symptoms of varicose veins with the following home remedies:
Regular exercise can improve blood circulation in the legs. This helps to distribute blood over the body that would have otherwise settled in the legs. Exercise also plays a crucial role in lowering blood pressure, which is one of the contributing factors to damaged veins. It would help if you focused on exercises that work the calf muscles without excessively straining them. These include:
Compression stockings work by exerting pressure on the leg, helping the veins and muscles push blood from the legs toward the heart. According to a study carried out in 2018, using a knee-high compression stocking with a pressure of 18 to 21 mmHg for 1 week reduces pain and aches that are linked to varicose veins. You can buy compression stockings from a pharmacy or online store.
High water retention is bad for damaged veins. Therefore, avoid salty foods. Include foods high in potassium in your diet because they can help reduce water retention. Such foods include potatoes, lentils, white beans, leafy vegetables, almonds, pistachio nuts, salmon, and tuna. It would be best if you also develop a strong preference for foods with high fiber content.
These foods help with bowel movements and prevent constipation. Constipation aggravates damaged veins making symptoms worse. Foods with high fiber content include:
- Oats, flaxseed, and wheat
- Seeds, nuts, and legumes
- Whole-grain foods
Eat More Flavonoids
Flavonoids are known to play an essential role in shrinking damaged veins. They encourage blood circulation, which is vital in preventing blood from settling in the lower part of the body. Flavonoids also help reduce blood pressure and relax blood vessels. Flavonoids are available in foods such as:
- Grapes, citrus fruits, apples, cherries, and blueberries
- Vegetables, including onions, spinach, bell peppers, and broccoli
Medical research carried out by the National Institute of Health shows that orally consuming grape seed extract can help reduce swelling that occurs in the lower legs. It also offers relief from other symptoms associated with chronic venous insufficiency.
However, if you are taking blood-thinning medication, you should avoid taking grape seed extract, since they can interact and expose you to excess bleeding.
According to a 2006 study review, horse chestnuts can help reduce leg pain, itching, and heaviness in people with chronic venous insufficiency, a major risk factor for varicose veins. You can buy horse chestnut extract from health stores or online. Another medical review study published in 2010 shows that sea pine extract and Butcher’s broom extract can help reduce leg swelling or edema common in people with damaged veins. These 2 extracts are also available in health stores and online.
It is important to note that plant extracts and essential oils should be diluted in carrier oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil, before applying them to the skin.
Wear Non-Restrictive Clothing
Tight-fitting clothes can prevent blood from flowing freely throughout the body. Therefore, you should opt for loose-fitting clothes that encourage blood circulation. You should also wear flat shoes instead of high heels.
To improve blood circulation, keep your legs elevated, preferably at the same level as your heart or higher. Elevation reduces pressure in the legs’ veins while allowing gravity to help with blood flow towards the heart. Keeping your legs elevated is helpful, especially if you spend a significant amount of time sitting.
Massaging the affected area is an excellent way of improving circulation through the veins. Gentle massage oils or a moisturizer can help amplify the benefits of a massage. However, it is vital that you avoid applying pressure directly onto the affected veins. This may cause further damage to the fragile tissues, making the condition worse.
Do not sit for extended periods. People whose work requires them to sit for long should stand up and move around every once in a while to keep the blood circulating throughout the body. They can also change positions regularly to prevent blood from settling in their legs. Additionally, you should avoid sitting with your legs crossed since the position prevents blood from reaching the legs and feet. This position also restricts circulation.
If you have an office job, you can inform your supervisor about your condition to avoid getting a stink eye whenever you stand up to walk around.
While damaged valves do not pose a severe health risk in many cases, they can cause aesthetic concerns, affecting one’s wellbeing. They can also cause a lot of discomfort and pain. Fortunately, there are several non-invasive and minimally invasive treatment options that can offer long-term relief. Our Vaculaze treatment uses light from an IPL device to treat damaged veins in the legs and on the face. To fix your varicose veins, contact the Southeastern Institute of Restorative Medicine in Dothan, AL!