Nowadays, it doesn’t take much to get rid of those horrible squiggles running down your legs. Here’s how it’s done.
Prognosis: Varicose veins are inherited, so if Mom had them, you probably will too. They usually pop up in midtwenties, worsen during pregnancy. Old cure, called ligation, was pretty much a nightmare-literally involved making incisions and stripping out problematic veins. Hospital stay was required; major scars resulted. Thankfully, a new procedure, called sclero- therapy, makes vein removal relatively effortless and painless-happens right at the doctor’s office, and you can walk around, even exercise, same day. But before we get to that, let’s talk…
You’ve probably heard most of this before: Don’t cross legs, sit or stand for long periods of time (blood pools up); try raising foot of bed with a phone book or sleep with feet propped up on a pillow (or a man…): get plenty of exercise; stay at ideal weight; wear supportive Lycra hose and sunscreen (sun damage exacerbates problem). If you take birth-control pills, switch to low-estrogen version (hormonal changes put pressure on vein walls, hence the pregnancy connection).
THAT FIRST VEIN
Once you’ve spotted the culprit, New York City dermatologist/vein specialist Howard Sobel recommends having it fixed right away. The idea is to keep ahead of the problem not wait for it to get more serious. Exception: Pregnant women shouldn’t start sclerotherapy until after giving birth, though it’s a good idea to have it done between babies to prevent a buildup.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Doctor will inject a special solution (hypertonic saline, actoxisclerol, sodium morrhuate) into affected veins causing them to collapse, shrink, and eventually be absorbed by the body. Circulatory system won’t miss veins-blood supply naturally reroutes to healthier passageways, explains Dr. Sobel. You may feel a slight burning immediately following injection, though shot itself doesn’t hurt at all because needle is ultrathin. Bruising may occur within next few days, during which you’ll wear an Ace bandage or special surgical hosiery helps keep solution in vessel a bit longer, thus insuring success. Results become apparent in about two to four weeks.
Severity of problem dictates whether entire leg is treated at once or procedure is stretched over several weekly or monthly visits. Expect to pay between $150 and $300 per session. The good news? Insurance will often cover costs, as condition can be deemed medical not cosmetic. Treated veins won’t come back, but new ones may appear throughout life, so periodic touch-up injections may be required. Note: Same method can remove ugly veins on breasts.
Procedure works for all but large, protruding veins (these still require big-deal surgical ligation). Laser therapy is an option for very small, spidery veins. Most doctors, however, consider sclerotherapy the best solution. Good luck!