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Treatments can ease pain of varicose veins

May 29, 1998
Web posted at: 8:41 p.m. EDT (0041 GMT)

(CNN) -- Friends Laura Mullen and Sue Ruff have a lot in common. They both walk dogs, play tennis and like to shop -- and they both suffer from varicose veins.

"My legs cramped up at night, and they woke me up at night," Mullen says. "And they hurt, and my legs were swelling."

"I hate how they look," Ruff says. "I avoid wearing shorts. I don't like to wear a tennis skirt because I feel uncomfortable."

A varicose vein is the result of leaky valves. Blood is supposed to flow through the veins and to the heart. But when a valve in the vein becomes damaged, the blood pools, putting pressure on vein walls and causing them to weaken, swell and bulge.

Varicose veins are hereditary. Pregnancy, aging and menopause can trigger their appearance, but both men and women suffer from them.

New treatments available

Mullen walks a bit easier now, thanks to surgery. But the majority of treatments available to treat varicose veins can be done in a doctor's office.

Laser therapy can be used to fix broken blood vessels, commonly called spider veins. There's also a new treatment, similar to laser therapy, that's called photoderm.

"It utilizes a pulsed light that actually thermally heats and coagulates the vein," says Dr. Mark Mittenthal.

Another treatment is sclerotherapy, also known as injection therapy, in which saline injections cause the veins to shrink. A patient can easily be back on his or her feet in an hour.

However, doctors caution that even after treatment, the condition may reappear, often afflicting a different vein.

Though not all varicose veins are preventable, doctors say people can avoid some of them by elevating their legs when resting, watching their weight and exercising.

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