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Treating Varicose Veins

If you suffer from varicose veins, you know they can be extremely painful, interfering with your daily life. Leg pressure, pain, swelling, throbbing and itchy legs are all common symptoms. Just ask Rick K. Wilson, MD, FASDS, FABVLM, Director of Cooper Clinic Dermatology, who’s experienced the pain firsthand.

“I’ve experienced varicose veins personally,” says Wilson, who developed varicose veins nearly two decades ago. “I had pain and swelling. My legs were uncomfortable standing on a hard floor treating patients, so I decided to take time for myself and get them fixed.”

It’s estimated about 35 percent of Americans suffer from varicose veins. Women are far more likely to develop them than men, due to hormonal changes that begin with puberty and continue into pregnancy and menopause. Genetics are also a major contributing factor and being overweight is a main aggregating factor.

Wilson says varicose veins are often misunderstood, but are a legitimate medical problem that should be evaluated and treated due to an increased risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), blood clots and other complications. How do you know which treatment option is best for you? Dr. Wilson discusses which to choose and avoid, and what procedure he ultimately chose for himself.

Who’s At Risk?

Before you can talk about treating varicose veins, you must first understand the cause.

According to the National Institutes of Health, veins have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing toward your heart. If the valves are weak or damaged, blood can back up and pool in your veins, leading to varicose veins.

Treatment Options:

  • Vein Stripping Surgery

When treatment for varicose veins first began, it was common to use a procedure known as vein stripping. Wilson estimates more than 100,000 patients a year in the U.S. would have the surgery.

Vein stripping is done by making cuts through the skin, inserting a rod in the vein and ripping the vein out. Consequently, there is post-operative bruising and severe pain.

“You would scream if you weren’t under general anesthesia,” says Wilson. General anesthesia is also something Wilson says you want to avoid if possible, as it can be hard on your central nervous system.

“We don’t offer this treatment at Cooper Clinic and it really shouldn’t be done anymore,” says Wilson. “When you rip the vein out, other connecting veins and nerves are often damaged, causing nerve injury, swelling bruising and pain. I’ve seen a lot of patients whose leg will swell to about twice the size and the recovery time can be between 2-8 weeks.”

  • LASER Treatment

Advances in technology now allow specialty trained dermatologists and some vascular surgeons to perform a procedure called Cool Touch Endovenous (CTEV) closure.

Using duplex ultrasound to find the location where the blood backflow begins, doctors can make a tiny incision in the skin near the varicose vein,  insert a small catheter into the vein and then use a LASER to heat up the inside of the vein.

“The heat from the LASER makes the vein shrink shut and it dissolves and goes away,” says Wilson. “It’s really slick.”

It also cuts recovery time down dramatically. This is the procedure Wilson chose to have done on his veins.

“I saw patients on a Friday morning, was at my doctor’s office by 2 p.m. and was treated and taken home by 4 p.m.,” says Wilson. “By Monday I was back at work without pain or other complications typical with vein stripping. That’s today’s technology.”

The entire procedure, from start to finish, takes about one to two hours. Wilson says he was one of the first in the country to perform this treatment back in the year 2000, and the technology keeps improving.

  • Foam Sclerotherapy

Foam Sclerotherapy is a treatment that also uses an ultrasound machine for guidance but instead of heat shrinking the vein shut, foam is used.

“We get into the vein and push polidocanol foam into the vein,” says Wilson. “The foam irritates the lining and makes the vein swell shut and heal shut.”

The entire procedure takes less than 30 minutes. While it is quick, Wilson says several foam procedures might have to be done to get the vein to fully close.

Choosing Your Procedure

With several different options on the table, how do you know what’s best for you?

“Educating our patients at Cooper Clinic is a big priority for us,” says Wilson. “We take time to talk with them and decide together which treatment option is best for their lifestyle.”

For more information on varicose vein treatments or to schedule your consultation with Cooper Clinic Dermatology, visit cooperclinicdermatology.com or call 972.560.2667.

Categories: Cooper Updates
  1. December 24, 2020 at 1:06 am

    Good information about varicose veins! Thanks for Sharing!
    Keep posting…

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