It’s Not Vain To Care About Your Veins

by Andy C. Chiou, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S.
Originally Appeared in The Peoria Woman, October 2004

If there was a simple way to remove your painful and unattractive varicose veins, would you consider it? Fortunately, this is now a very real possibility for many patients.

Before explaining how this is done, please allow me to provide some background.

Healthy veins defined

Your legs contain a network of veins. As you age, gain weight, endure pregnancy and spend excessive time on your feet, these veins can become damaged.

In a healthy vein, the valves open and close to aid in the return of blood to the heart. As these valves become damaged or diseased, they no longer work properly, resulting in the backward flow of blood in your legs – this is known as venous reflux. This causes blood to pool in the legs, leading to swelling, pain and varicose veins.

Consider your choices

There are many different treatment options available, depending on the individual patient’s situation. But today, I’ll be explaining a treatment that many people are interested in – VNUS® Closure® or radiofrequency ablation of the veins (in other words, a minimally invasive microwave procedure).

This treatment appeals to many women and men because it is done on an out-patient basis with a short recovery. The procedure is performed in a physician’s office, a surgical center or a hospital with local or regional anesthesia.

Once the area is numb, a thin catheter (a tube even smaller than a coffee stirrer) is threaded into the damaged or diseased vein using a single needlestick. The catheter delivers radiofrequency or microwave energy to the vein wall. This causes the vein to heat up, collapse and seal shut.

After the diseased vein is closed, nearby healthy veins take over and empty the blood from your legs. Once normal blood flow is re-established, symptoms quickly improve.

Short-term recovery

For this procedure, recovery truly is short-term. When the procedure is completed, the catheter is removed and a bandage is put over the insertion site. The bandage may remain for a full day.

Your physician will also provide you with guidance as to other recovery recommendations – these may include walking, wearing compression stockings and avoiding standing for extended periods of time. Most patients are able to resume their normal activities in one to two days.

Long-term results

The majority of patients report good results including reduced (or eliminated) leg pain, reduced (or eliminated) leg fatigue and the absence of edema or swelling. In addition, most patients indicate that there is very little, if any, scarring or bruising following the procedure. Of course, every patient is different, but these are the typical results.

Varicose vein prevention

Although some degree of vein degeneration is inevitable, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting varicose veins. They include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising moderately
  • Avoiding prolonged sitting or standing
  • Avoiding crossing your legs
  • Elevating your legs periodically

The right treatment for YOU

If you already have varicose veins or even spider veins, it may be time to explore your treatment options. As with any other medical condition, it is important to make sure you are evaluated and treated by a qualified physician – or team of physicians.

Although some people consider varicose veins to be simply a cosmetic issue, in rare cases they can be an indicator of a more serious vascular condition, such as a life-threatening clot in your deep veins. A comprehensive vein center staffed by knowledgeable physicians can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend the right treatment for your underlying condition.

Up to 25 million men and women may be affected by venous reflux – for many of them, a minimally invasive treatment such as the VNUS Closure procedure may be the right choice. The only way to know for sure is be evaluated.

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