Varicose veins occur because of a condition called chronic venous insufficiency. Varicose veins are enlarged and twisted, and can be blue or purple in color. Chronic venous insufficiency is when the leg veins cannot pump enough blood back to the heart. At the UVM Medical Center, our surgeons are experienced, knowledgeable and on the leading edge of new developments in vascular surgery. Learn more about how we diagnose & treat varicose veins below.
Varicose Veins Care at UVM Medical Center
When you are a patient at the UVM Medical Center, you can be assured that you are receiving the best care available. Our doctors work together as a team to diagnose and treat vascular related conditions. They are trained in the most sophisticated technology available, including minimally invasive procedures.
Varicose Veins Diagnosis
The UVM Medical Center’s vascular imaging specialists are heavily trained in the latest techniques to diagnose venous insufficiency. Our non-invasive laboratory is nationally accredited. It is staffed by registered vascular technologists, specialists who are highly skilled in non-invasive vascular imaging and testing. Our lab offers imaging and testing for the full range of vascular problems. Diagnostic tests include:
- Physical Exam - you vascular surgeon will conduct a full medical history and physical exam. He or she will examine your varicose veins and may measure the blood pressure in your legs.
- Physiological Studies - studies that measure the amount of blood traveling through the vessels with and without exercise. They help to determine if blockages exist.
- Ultrasound Imaging - an imaging study that uses sound waves to produce a video image of your blood vessels. Ultrasounds are used to check for a potential aneurysm and blocked blood vessels. It may be the only test necessary to determine the need for an operation or stenting procedure.
- Duplex Ultrasound - this test may be used to confirm the diagnosis. It can determine if your veins are working properly or if there’s an indication of a blood clot. The test uses traditional ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves which bounce off the blood cells and vessels. The sound waves create an image of blood flow and blood vessel structures in the legs with doppler ultrasound technology.
Treatments for Varicose Veins
At the UVM Medical Center, our vascular surgeons offer expert care in a personalized manner. A key goal in treating chronic venous insufficiency is to decrease pain and disability and prevent the development of venous ulcers. The type of treatment that is right for you will depend on the severity of your condition and your general health. Varicose vein and chronic venous insufficiency treatments options include:
- Lifestyle Changes - Taking good care of yourself can make a big difference in easing pain and preventing your condition from getting worse. Exercising, losing weight, elevating your legs and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting are ways you can help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
- Compression Stockings - The use of compression stockings or compression socks is a common treatment for mild cases of venous insufficiency. Compression stockings are elastic stockings that squeeze the veins and improve blood flow in the legs. They are usually worn daily.
- Sclerotherapy - Most serious cases of venous insufficiency and varicose veins can be treated with injections or surgical procedures. Sclerotherapy is an outpatient procedure used to treat small varicose veins. Your surgeon will inject a chemical in the affected veins, which scars and closes them off. The veins are eventually absorbed into the body. As a result, the blood that would normally flow through those veins takes a different path, through other veins, to the heart.
- Radiofrequency Ablation - Radiofrequency ablation (closure) is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure used to treat venous insufficiency. A catheter is positioned into the damaged vein. It then delivers radiofrequency heat to the vein wall, which shrinks and seals the vein. Blood then flows through other, healthier veins. Patients usually return to normal activities within one or two days.
- Vein Ligation - Vein ligation is a procedure where the doctors makes small incisions over the varicose vein. The vein is then tied off completely to interrupt the blood flow. The vein will shrink and be absorbed into the body. This procedure is often done in tandem with radiofrequency ablation.
Post-Surgery: What to Expect
Maintaining a moderate level of leg muscle activity is essential on the day of varicose vein surgery. Walking a minimum of 2-3 minutes every half hour until bedtime. Normal, light activity can be resumed the following morning.
Heavy activities that involve sweating should not be resumed until 48-72 hours after the surgery. Some examples of this type of activity are aerobics, hiking, gardening & farming.
Showering should be done with a plastic bag over your dressing to protect the incision from getting wet. Steri-strips should stay on until they start to peel off and bain-aids can be changed if they become stained.
Tenderness and bruising around the incisions is normal.