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Varicose veins are abnormally thick and bulging veins that typically appear in the legs. They are fairly common and occur more frequently in woman than men.
For most individuals, varicose veins and spider veins (the smaller and more common variation of varicose veins) are primarily a cosmetic concern. In some cases, however, varicose veins can cause pain, skin sores and even blood clots.
Our Approach to Treating Varicose Veins
Vascular surgeons at Houston Methodist offer the full range of varicose vein treatments — from traditional surgical techniques to newer, less invasive procedures, including the most advanced therapies.
Whether you’re seeking varicose vein treatment for cosmetic reasons or because you’re experiencing symptoms, our experts will help you understand your options and advise you on which is most effective for your specific condition.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
The valves in your leg veins work hard to pump blood from your legs back to your heart.
If one of these valves leaks or fails, blood can pool in the vein instead of returning to the heart. This pooling of blood causes the vein to bulge and become enlarged, creating spider veins or larger varicose veins.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing varicose veins include:
- Standing for long periods of time
- Extra weight, as this puts more pressure on the valves in your leg veins
- Aging, as this causes wear and tear on the valves in your leg veins
- Hormonal changes and number of pregnancies, which is why women may be more likely to develop varicose veins and spider veins than men
- Family history of varicose veins
Varicose Veins Treatment Options
Lifestyle Changes, Compression Stockings & Medications
For mild cases of varicose veins, regularly elevating your legs can help reduce blood flow to the lower leg and ease the thickening of these veins.
Compression stockings or support hose can also be used to lessen the pain and discomfort caused by varicose veins. Compression fosters circulation in the feet and legs and can control blood flow to lessen the discomfort.
If pain warrants, venotonic medications can be used to help relieve discomfort and decrease the inflammation caused by varicose veins.
In many cases, a combination of these are used to treat and manage mild cases of varicose veins.
Microphlebectomy is a minimally invasive procedure used to remove varicose veins with little-to-no surrounding tissue damage. This procedure results in less pain compared to the more traditional approach.
After microphlebectomy, most patients can resume normal activities in a timely manner. However, it is crucial to avoid strenuous exercise or activity for the first week to ensure proper healing. Your doctor may also recommend compression stockings or dressings.
Endovenous thermal ablation is commonly used for larger varicose veins.
During this catheter-based procedure, your doctor will use a laser or radiofrequency electrode to heat the vein. This causes the vein to seal, stopping the blood flow to the affected area. Subsequently, the varicose vein is eliminated. Alternatively, your doctor can use a foam sclerosant or medical glue to shut down the vein.
Typically performed as an outpatient procedure, endovenous thermal ablation results in minimal amount of scarring, few side effects and a quick recovery time while it improves circulation in the area.