Chances are that you either have, or you know someone who has, varicose veins. That is because vein disease affects 1 in 4 adults. A common myth is that varicose veins (veins that bulge underneath the skin in the legs) are a cosmetic problem, but in certain situations they can lead to swelling and pain in the legs and even phlebitis (clots in the veins). In our valley, where shorts and skirts are year-round attire, unsightly varicose veins can cause embarrassment and force patients of both sexes to cover up their legs.
Until recently, many treatments for varicose veins including laser or radiofrequency ablation involved downtime and the necessity to wear compression stockings usually before and after the treatment. Wearing thigh high stockings in the desert summer is not a fun experience for the vast majority of my patients. Ablation is an effective treatment but can also lead to bruising and, although rarely, damage to the nerves in the legs.
Fortunately, there is now a procedure known as VenaSeal that safely treats varicose veins and does not require compression stockings. Also referred to as the “superglue treatment,” VenaSeal involves using a small amount of medical adhesive to treat vein disease.
In order to understand the benefits of this new technology, one needs to understand how varicose veins develop.
Varicose veins are bulging veins in the legs below the skin surface that form due to damaged valves in the veins. Blood usually is pumped out of the legs via one way valves in the veins. The valves can become leaky for various reasons: genetics, pregnancy, and standing on the feet for a long period of time. When performing the VenaSeal procedure, ultrasound is used to identify the vein, and a small amount of medical adhesive is injected into the vein. Within just a few minutes, the vein is sealed closed and blood is re-routed to the remaining veins in the leg. The glue itself is safe and has been used in the human body for various medical applications for over a decade. Once the procedure is completed, a small band-aid is applied over the catheter insertion site and the patient can resume normal activity. The procedure is performed in the office setting with no sedation required. Only a single injection of local anesthetic is required, and most veins can be treated in less than 30 minutes.
Benefits of the new treatment include no down time, and the procedure is safe and effective, with a 97% success rate. Rarely, temporary inflammation can occur at the procedure site, so it is always important to discuss risks and benefits of the procedure with your vascular surgeon. A quick ultrasound screening can determine if you are a candidate for the VenaSeal procedure, so stop hiding your varicose veins and show off your healthy legs!
Pushpinder (Makku) Sivia, M.D., is board-certified in vascular surgery and specializes in vein surgery. He can be reached at 1 (800) Varicose or at www.DesertVeinSpecialists.com. He is also a member of Desert Doctors. For more information visit DesertDoctors.org or call (760) 232.4646.