Technically, varicose veins can’t be cured, in the sense of “repaired” or “fixed.” The condition that causes them, chronic venous insufficiency or CVI, does permanent damage to the tiny valves that control the flow of blood back to the heart and lungs. At present, even given the wonders of modern endoscopic surgery, there is no way to go into these veins with a microscopic scalpel and repair or replace them the way you might fix the faulty valve on a water pump. Similarly, there is currently no proven pharmaceutical or “natural” way to chemically reverse the damage done by CVI. Veins that have become varicose due to CVI are stuck being damaged. So the Bad News answer is “No.”
Fortunately, there is no need to do microsurgery to “fix” varicose veins. It’s faster, easier, safer, and much more efficient to simply remove them. So the Good News answer is “Yes.”
Most people do not require lifelong treatment of their veins. Often a combination of endovascular ablation and foam sclerotherapy is sufficient to treat evident varicose veins and a high satisfaction rate for many years.
How do vein doctors now remove varicose veins?
In your mother’s or grandmother’s time, the only way to remove veins that had become damaged by CVI was a surgical process called “vein stripping,” and it was as onerous as the name implies. It involved hospitals and general anaesthesia, and the recovery time after such a procedure was long and painful.
These days “vein stripping” is rarely done, and it’s due to the aforementioned advances in endoscopic surgery. Doctors at The Vein Institute use gentle, minimally invasive methods to insert a tiny catheter (smaller than the needle used to give you a flu shot) into the veins, and then use a number of methods to cause the damaged veins to close, and collapse.
This is OK, and doesn’t damage your circulation, because your venous system is naturally “self-correcting.” When a vein is closed, “neighbouring” veins in the vicinity take over the task of routing deoxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs for rejuvenation. The now-closed veins are naturally absorbed by surrounding tissue, and over a period of weeks disappear. Your overall circulation actually improves when varicose veins are removed, because the proper “one way” flow that good health depends on has been restored.
How we treat varicose veins at The Vein Institute
First, we perform a full medical examination, using state-of-the-art venous duplex ultrasound to determine the nature and severity of the varicose veins themselves. If the swollen veins are small and the patient is so far not experiencing any of the side effects of varicose veins sufficiently to bother them, we don’t necessarily recommend vein removal unless the patient wants it for cosmetic reasons. Unpleasant symptoms of small varicose veins can effectively be “handled” for many people by changes to diet, exercise patterns, and lifestyle, and by wearing compression stockings to improve circulation. But none of these provide a permanent solution, and none actually eliminate the swollen veins to improve your appearance.
For a more permanent solution – both to the impaired circulation and side effects caused by varicose veins and to their unattractiveness – we can recommend, depending on the individual case of course, one of a number of other proven methodologies. One is a technique called ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, in which we insert a tiny catheter into a varicose vein and then inject a sealant that makes the walls of the vein stick to each other, causing the entire vein to collapse.
Another technique we use is called radiofrequency ablation, which uses the heat of radiofrequency waves to close diseased veins rather than chemical agents. In addition, The Vein Institute is one of the pioneers in Australia of a modern non-surgical technique called medical superglue that uses a medical adhesive to safely and effectively close varicose veins. Benefits of this method are that the medical superglue sets within minutes, and there is no need for the prolonged heating process associated with other treatments.
All of the methods cited above are “walk in, walk out” procedures performed on an outpatient basis in the comfort of our clinic. They take under an hour, and require little recovery time. To find out more, give us a call at 1300 535 017. We will be happy to answer your questions and help you find the varicose vein treatment that is best for you.