Varicose veins are large, raised, swollen blood vessels, usually in the legs, that twist and turn. They are blue or purple enlarged veins, typically seen bulging out of the leg, usually the backs of the calves or on the inside of the legs. They are the result of weak or damaged valves in the veins.
There are various reasons for getting varicose veins. They usually form with age, or they are hereditary, but things like pregnancy or excess weight can also bring on the condition, as these put increased pressure on the veins. If the pain isn’t bad, then people can just live with them, but they can cause other complications such as eczema, inflammation in the veins and ulcers.
Varicose veins, are blood vessels formed in a zigzag pattern, usually raised and visible through the skin. They are sometimes confused with spider veins, which are smaller but appear in the same zigzag pattern. Leg veins are very common and can form on other parts of the body as well.
Spider veins and thread veins are smaller, purple, red and blue vessels that twist and turn. Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins and they are visible through the skin and typically visible on the legs and face. Leg veins occur as a result of blood not flowing properly through the legs.
The job of leg veins is to carry blood back up to the heart, and they have to work very hard to carry it in the right direction as it is moving against gravity.
There is a series of one-way valves up the leg and as the blood passes through, the valves close, which stops gravity from pulling it back down again.
Some treatments for the condition are:
- Stripping – This is the traditional surgical operation and involves removing the entire vein. Stripping is a procedure that removes the puffy and twisted veins that bulge under the skin on the legs or thighs. Stripping would generally be performed on large varicose veins and this operation requires general anaesthetic and a has long recovery period.
- Sclerotherapy – Is a procedure that destroys the varicose veins by injecting them with a solution called a sclerosant. The sclerosant causes the affected vein to collapse, which in turn, forces the blood to reroute to healthier veins. The collapsed veins disappear over time. This procedure is typically used to treat small varicose veins / spider veins which are found near the surface of the skin and also to improve the aesthetic look of the leg.
- Radio-Frequency Ablation – This procedure uses radio waves on the vein wall. Radio waves are a form of electromagnetic energy. Using an ultrasound to see inside the leg allows a wire catheter to pass along the vein, usually from the knee to the groin. Radio-frequency energy is then applied to the wall of the vein. The vein has a special solution injected, to numb it during the procedure and then the vein wall will heat up, thicken, and contract. The vein will eventually be reabsorbed by the body and disappear. It may take a few weeks or months to see the full results.
- Endothermal Ablation – This procedure involves using radio-frequency energy to heat the wall of the varicose vein. The doctor makes a small cut just above or below the knee and using an ultrasound scan, a catheter is guided into the vein. The catheter has a probe inserted inside that sends out radio frequency energy. The vein heats up until the vein wall collapses, closing and sealing it. Once it is sealed shut, the blood will be redirected to one of the healthy veins.
- Laser Treatment – The treatment consists of applying light energy from a laser to a leg vein, making the vein disappear. It’s performed on the outside of the skin, treating spider veins and tiny varicose veins just under the skin’s surface. After heating the vein, the wall breaks down and closes. The sealed vein is then dissolved and absorbed by the body. Laser surgery is primarily used on tiny varicose veins, spider and thread veins. The treatment involves no cutting, injections, or chemicals.
Laser vein removal is an easy, fast and effective way to treat superficial veins. Medicine has been using laser treatment for more than 30 years and advances in technology has helped develop many lasers. The laser uses a focused beam of light during treatment, then the laser heats up a small vein and destroys it. The laser beam is very focused and does not damage any nearby skin tissue. Over a period of four to six weeks, the treated vein reabsorbs into the body and disappears.
What are the benefits of Laser treatment
- Treatments take less than one hour.
- Downtime is minimal and immediate return to regular activities is possible.
- Improves the aesthetic look of the leg.
- 1-2 treatments, each 6-8 weeks apart.
- Back to work the next day.
- Duration of results – Permanent.
- Local anaesthetic.
- Results Seen – 4 – 6 weeks.
What makes leg veins appear
- When the condition runs in the family,
- Occupations that demand long periods of standing.
- Old age.
- Being overweight.
- Leg trauma.
How long are laser leg vein treatments
Usually, leg vein treatments take roughly 15 to 30 minutes, however, the time may vary depending on the veins that need treating.
Is the treatment painful
Most treatments involve minimal discomfort, however, when having the laser pulses, some people may experience a light stinging sensation on the skin. To decrease discomfort we apply a topical anesthetic cream.
- Infrequently, the treated area will be mildly swollen and sensitive for several weeks.
- Make sure the area is well moisturised and kept away from sunlight.
- It’s advisable to wear sunscreen
- Avoid strenuous exercise
- It’s recommended to wear support tights or stocks for one week after treatment.
Is laser leg vein treatment permanent?
In most cases, the veins are completely removed. Nonetheless, as new veins appearing cannot be prevented, it is possible that further treatment is not out of the question.