There is no clear way to prevent varicose veins from forming. Staying lean and remaining active are recommended. Avoid prolonged sitting or standing. If needed, use compression hose to minimize lower extremity congestion.
Compression hose may be obtained over the counter, but for more severe disease, graduated compression hose with prescription strength compression may be recommended. Many sports stores are selling compression sleeves which may also provide similar benefit.
Current treatment options for varicose veins include:
- Compression stockings
Compression stockings come in various types, strengths and lengths. They can provide relief from some of the symptoms but do not cure varicose veins. People with so-called venous ulcer disease should wear compression stockings. This form of treatment is typically the first line of therapy. They may be difficult to apply and often require direction for proper fitting.
Other forms of compression include wraps that stay on for several days and also have a medication to help skin or ulcers heal.
Pneumatic compression devices also may be recommended for excessive swelling and a progressive form of venous insufficiency. This therapy consists of pumps that are worn on the legs intermittently for hours a day.
An effective way to treat varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency is a procedure in which the failing veins are closed or removed. This can be done only for the superficial veins.
A number of minimally invasive procedures with less discomfort and downtime are available to seal closed the “broken” (dysfunctional) veins and allow the blood to be rerouted through healthy veins. These methods include thermal ablation, mechanochemical ablation, sclerotherapy and glue. These procedures are typically performed in a medical office or clinic with local anesthetic and take less than an hour.
Thermal ablation procedures are very common. With this technique, the tissue around the vein is anesthetized, or numbed, by injection of medication. Then a catheter is inserted into the leaking vein and the vein wall is sealed closed using the energy produced by heat (laser or radiofrequency).
Other techniques available include mechanochemical ablation or glue, in which the vein is closed without needing to use heat. These procedures do not require as much local anesthetic and are usually less painful. Varicose vein clusters can be injected with a special medicine to chemically destroy them (sclerotherapy) or can be removed with tiny surgical hooks and local anesthetic (phlebectomy).
When a varicose vein is treated, or shut down and sealed closed, the blood is rerouted via healthy veins with working valves. The same blood that used to collect in the lower leg causing swelling is now able to flow properly.
Living With Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are very common and do not bother most people. In those cases, there is no need for concern. Over time, symptoms can occur such as aching and swelling. If the symptoms become bothersome, then a specialist evaluation is recommended.