Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that form in your legs and can be seen through your skin. You get varicose veins when blood pools in a section of your vein and makes the vein bulge outwards. Your legs may feel heavy or sore, and they may become swollen. This distressing condition is reported to affect up to 15% of men and up to 25% of women, making it one of the most common medical problems among adults. Fortunately, you don't need to learn to live with your varicose veins. Here are three things you need to know about endovenous laser therapy.
How is endovenous laser therapy performed?
First, your doctor will perform a doppler ultrasound (DUS) of the area to be treated to identify the exact locations of the varicose veins and plan your treatment. Next, your doctor will clean the skin overlying your varicose veins. The skin will then be numbed so that the procedure doesn't hurt.
Your doctor will make a small nick in the skin overlying the vein. They will insert a needle into the vein and use the DUS to guide the needle into the proper position. A guidewire will then be inserted into the vein, and a laser sheath will be placed over the wire. Finally, a laser fiber will be guided into the laser sheath. Once everything is in position, the laser will be fired. The heat from the laser damages the varicose vein, which will later cause it to scar shut. Your doctor will remove the needle, wire, sheath and fiber from the vein.
Your doctor will then apply either a stocking or a bandage to the treated leg, and you'll be sent home to recover. These bandages need to be left in place for 24 hours, and after that, you only need to wear the stockings during the day until your recovery period is finished.
What can you expect during recovery?
For the first five to seven days after your procedure, you'll feel discomfort in the treated area of your leg. This discomfort may feel like pulling or tenderness. This sensation means that your varicose vein is starting to scar shut from the laser treatment. Icing the area can help control your discomfort. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, can also help control both your pain and inflammation.
Right after your procedure, you can resume your regular activities. This means that you can return to school or work as soon as you leave the doctor's office if you want to. Light exercise, like going for a walk, can begin the second day after your surgery. Avoid doing any heavy lifting while your legs are healing.
About a week later, you'll go back to the doctor for a follow-up appointment. Your doctor will take an ultrasound to make sure the vein is scarring shut properly and that you aren't experiencing any complications.
After at least two weeks, you'll be able to stop wearing your post-operative stockings.
Does endovenous laser therapy always work?
Studies have shown that endovenous laser therapy is a very effective treatment. A British study followed 95 patients with recurrent varicose veins—with a total of 104 limbs requiring treatment—through endovenous laser therapy. The study found that 102 of the 104 limbs were fully treated, while two limbs saw a return of the varicose veins. These results mean that it's very likely that your varicose veins will be gone after your treatment. If you're among the small minority of people who re-develop varicose veins, your doctor can repeat the treatment to get rid of them.
If you're sick of your varicose veins, discuss laser varicose vein treatment with your doctor.