Penn State Health Vascular Surgeon Offers Minimally Invasive Treatment for Varicose Veins
When the veins in the legs function properly, they carry blood to your heart. But when they start to malfunction, they may carry blood in the opposite direction, causing it to pool in your legs and create varicose or spider veins. They may cause pain, swelling, itching, throbbing, or they may just be unpleasant to see. Either way, many minimally invasive treatments now exist that help remove varicose and spider veins for good.
While the names may seem interchangeable, spider veins often are smaller than varicose veins, which are larger and tend to bulge. Both types of vein problems occur more often in women than men. Females with a history of pregnancy and those with a family history of varicose or spider veins have the highest risk for developing them.
In my practice, I meet with patients who often describe two different types of problems associated with varicose veins. Symptomatic patients describe leg pain, swelling, throbbing, aching or a feeling of burning in the leg. People who work while standing or spend a good deal of time using their legs during the day usually report the worst symptoms.
For other people, varicose veins cause no symptoms. These patients seek a cosmetic solution that will help make their legs look better.
Many patients I see have already taken steps to treat varicose veins by wearing compression stockings, elevating the affected leg or taking over-the-counter pain medication. While those treatments address the symptoms, they don’t address the underlying cause of varicose veins.
Getting effective treatment for varicose veins starts by meeting with a specialist. I offer consultations for anyone with varicose or spider veins. During the consultation, we will take your complete medical history and perform a physical exam. We’ll then use ultrasound technology, guiding a probe across the affected leg to view the varicose or spider veins and to check for leaky veins.
We then personalize treatment for each patient based on the result of the ultrasound and the patient’s medical history. Treatment may include one or a combination of these three therapies:
- Saphenous ablation – During this procedure, I make a small incision in the leg and insert a catheter into the leaky vein. I then deliver heat through the catheter. That heat closes the leaky vein.
- Phlebectomy – This treatment removes veins that lie just below the surface using tiny incisions.
- Sclerotherapy – During this procedure, I inject solution directly into the vein. The solution causes the vein to scar, close and fade away over time. I typically use this procedure to treat smaller veins like spider veins.
Patients undergoing these procedures receive local anesthesia to minimize pain. They walk in and walk out from the procedure. They will see results within a few weeks or a month. These treatments carry minimal risk and enable most patients to get rid of varicose veins for good.
Helping local people remove the pain and unsightliness of varicose veins is one of the many reasons why I returned to Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center late last year after a 16-year absence. I’m proud to be part of a vascular program that also helps people manage aneurysms of the chest or abdomen, address blockages of blood vessels in the abdomen and the legs, and manage conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and carotid artery disease.
Vascular problems such as varicose veins don’t get better by themselves. Today’s treatments help people get back to their normal activities sooner with less pain, swelling and itching.
About the author: Dr. Ali Amin is a board-certified vascular surgeon and chief of vascular surgery at Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center.