When treating varicose veins, laser therapy remains the best option, a new study says. Laser is preferred over surgery or foam due to higher success rates with the least amount of complications.
Researchers in the study examined 798 participants who had varicose veins and were treated at 11 vascular surgery centers in the United Kingdom, between November 2008 and October 2012. The participants underwent one of three types of treatments: closing off the veins with a laser, injecting a drug "foam" into the vein or surgically removing the vein.
After six months, the researchers compared the outcomes, looking at how well the treatments worked and at their complication rates, as well as how the participants rated the change in their quality of life since their treatments.
The main findings indicated that laser therapy, endovenous laser treatment was the preferred treatment for varicose veins. It was determined that all three treatments reduced symptoms associated with varicose veins, but there were fewer complications after laser treatment.
What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins are blood vessels that have become swollen, enlarged and twisted. Improperly working valves in the veins cause the disorder. In people who have this condition, blood returns up to the heart from the veins in the legs because of the contraction of the calf muscles. Normally, valves in these veins prevent blood from flowing backwards, down towards the feet.
People with varicose veins have leaky valves, which means that some blood flows backward and pools in the veins, causing them to become enlarged.
The procedure called endovenous laser ablation (EVLT), uses heat generated by laser energy to seal off faulty blood vessels, diverting blood flow to nearby healthy veins.
Foam or saline treatment, sclerotherapy, involves injecting drugs into a blood vessel. The medicines, when mixed with air, cause the vessel wall to thicken and helps to seal off blood flow. The recent study showed that foam was less likely than the other treatments to completely close a vein that had leaky valves, which may increase the likelihood that a patient will need future treatment.
In the study, about 1 percent of patients who underwent treatment with a laser experienced complications such as lumpiness, skin staining and numbness. About 6 percent of those who received the foam treatment, and 7 percent of those who underwent surgery experienced such complications, according to the study.
The researchers of the study also found that successful ablation of the great saphenous vein occurred in 83 percent of those who received the laser treatment and 84.4 percent of the participants who underwent surgery. These numbers were significantly higher than the 54.6 percent who had such successful ablation after the foam treatment. The great saphenous vein, the longest in the body, runs along the length of the leg.
Can varicose veins be prevented?
Varicose vein treatment is not only done for cosmetic reasons, it is done because people with who have them often suffer from pain and discomfort. Varicose veins can also cause swelling of the ankles, skin changes and sometimes even ulcers. Some people with severe varicose veins have difficulty walking.
Both men and women get varicose veins and the condition is very common in pregnant women, older patients, overweight people and those who stand for long periods of time. It is also more prevalent in people who have a family history of varicose veins.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people cannot prevent varicose veins from forming, but may be able to delay their formation or prevent existing varicose veins from getting worse. The NIH recommends that people avoid standing or sitting for a long time without taking breaks; avoid crossing their legs when sitting; and keep their legs raised when sitting, resting or sleeping.
Losing weight and doing exercise that works the leg muscles can also help, the NIH said.
South Florida Vascular Associates offers endovenous laser treatments and they are done right in our office. The treatment takes less than 1 hour, provides immediate relief, there is no use of anesthesia, quick recovery period, no scarring and provides a much less rate of complication compared to surgery. If you have unsightly or painful varicose veins call our office today to make an appointment for a consultation at one of our 3 convenient office locations, Coconut Creek, Plantation or Boynton Beach. We can help you to feel better and look better. Call 954-724-4141.