While the causes of varicose veins are not fully understood, one of the main contributing factors is high blood pressure. When pressure rises in the blood vessels, the veins become large, twisted, and observable through the skin’s surface. It is believed that valve incompetence plays a key role. For an assortment of reasons (e.g. blood clots, obesity, etc.), the valves weaken, impairing circulation in the legs. This allows pressure to increase and eventually causes varicosities to form.
There are several surgical and non-surgical treatment methods your doctor can use to address varicose veins. We’ll describe a few of them below along with the side effects they can cause.
How Compression Stockings Address Varicosities
Compression stockings are worn around the calves and sometimes extend beyond the knees. As their name implies, they compress the blood vessels. By doing so, they promote circulation in the legs and help push blood upward toward the heart. This reduces the pressure in the legs, thereby providing relief from pain, itching, and other symptoms related to varicose veins.
One of the drawbacks of compression stockings is that they may not resolve the varicosities since the vessels’ valves remain incompetent. Once the stockings are removed, blood may once again pool in the legs. That said, this is usually the first method of treatment doctors recommend.
Sclerotherapy: Chemical-Induced Irritation
This is a medical procedure that involves the injection of a chemical into the diseased blood vessel. This chemical – usually, a salt-based agent – irritates the inner wall of the vein. As a result, the inner wall swells and the sides adhere together, essentially closing the vessel. Blood is rerouted through healthy veins in the legs.
Sclerotherapy can be completed within half an hour. If there are a few varicose veins, the physician may be able to complete it in half the time. Most candidates for this treatment method require more than one treatment.
Endovenous Laser Therapy
This is a minimally invasive method that employs a laser fibre to damage the diseased vein’s inner wall. The fibre is introduced through a tiny entry hole and threaded into the diseased vessel. Laser energy is used to heat the fibre, which irritates the venous lining. Once this has been done, the fibre is removed, and the damaged vessel closes in on itself. It eventually disappears, and blood is diverted to other veins.
Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) can typically be done in less than an hour. Your leg will be wrapped, and you’ll be allowed to return home soon afterwards.
Ligation and Stripping
Venous ligation is a surgical procedure during which the varicose vein is tied off. This prevents blood from flowing through the vessel. Eventually, the vein becomes less pronounced.
Vein stripping is a procedure where the surgeon removes the vessel. One incision is made near the groin, and another is made in the calf. The vein is tied off to stop blood flow and then removed.
Because these procedures are more invasive than sclerotherapy and endovenous laser therapy, they are usually performed while the patient is under general anaesthesia.
Possible Side Effects Of Treatment
Compression stockings pose no side effects other than discomfort from their tightness. It’s worth noting that the stockings may lose pressure once they have been washed several times.
Sclerotherapy occasionally results in discolouration on the surface of the skin. It occurs in nearly three in ten cases. The effect gradually fades and disappears within six months. On rare occasions, spider veins may appear near the site of the treated varicosity. These, too, eventually disappear.
Endovenous laser therapy can cause a pulling sensation in the legs for several days. Mild bruising may also occur but vanishes shortly after treatment. Doctors strongly recommend that patients wear compression stockings following treatment, and walk around to encourage circulation. This helps to prevent blood clots from forming.
Side effects stemming from venous ligation and stripping are similar to those posed by most surgical procedures. They include infection and bleeding at the entry site as well as beneath the skin.
If you suffer from varicose veins, realize there are several treatment options available. As described above, some are less invasive than others. Consult your physician to determine the appropriate option for your circumstances.