Women and men with venous disease have far superior treatment options today than the painful vein stripping treatments of the past. Advanced, minimally-invasive treatments are now available to safely treat unsightly, painful varicose veins, branching red, blue, or purple spider veins, and blue (reticular) veins with less trauma and downtime and excellent medical and cosmetic results.
At South Texas Vein Institute, we focus our practice on minimally-invasive treatments for varicose veins, reticular veins, and spider veins. Our highly-trained surgeons perform vein ablation and sclerotherapy treatments with precision and skill and the highest level of personalized care. After a consultation and examination, we can recommend the best vein removal treatment for you.
What Is Venous Disease?
Venous disease can be defined as the impairment of the flow of blood towards the heart. The legs contain a network of veins similar to tree branches, with large, major veins and increasingly smaller veins. While oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart throughout the body via the arteries, it is the function of the veins to carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart.
Healthy veins have one-way valves that open and close to facilitate the return flow of blood to the heart. When these valves become weakened or damaged, they allow the backward flow of blood in the veins.
As gravity affects the legs more than other parts of the body, leg vein walls are under extreme pressure. Blood that cannot be properly returned pools in the vein, causing varicose veins and other vein disorders. Increased pressure in the veins can cause other leg veins to weaken and fail.
If left untreated, venous disease can lead to pain, swelling, skin ulcers, and other health problems. If you believe you have a disease of the veins, consult with a qualified vein doctor to determine the right vein removal treatment for you.
Diseases of the Veins: Appearance and Symptoms
Our vein surgeons, John Orfanos, MD and Carlos Garcia-Cantu MD, provide a full range of the most advanced, minimally-invasive treatments for vein disease. To obtain the best possible patient outcomes, Drs. Orfanos and Garcia-Cantu personally perform all procedures and personally manage every aspect of each patient’s treatment. Using state-of-the-art equipment and advanced techniques, we treat common vein diseases, along with related conditions and complications.
Varicose veins are enlarged, knarled, swollen veins, dark blue or purple in color. They can appear twisted and bulging and protrude under the skin, similar to cords on the leg. Although any vein can become varicose, this condition usually develops in the legs because of the increased pressure in the veins standing upright and walking causes.
For many people, varicose veins are a cosmetic problem, as they are aesthetically unappealing and visible under the surface of the skin. However, many others suffer aching pain and discomfort with varicose veins. This condition may also signal a higher risk of other problems in the circulatory system.
Spider veins and varicose veins share similar causes and treatments, but they are not the same disease. Spider veins appear as clusters of tiny, branching blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, similar to the appearance of a spider web. They are red, blue, or purple in color and commonly found on the legs and face.
Technically known as telangiectasias, spider veins are chiefly a cosmetic concern. However, some people experience symptoms with this condition.
Although not as well-known, reticular veins are a common condition, like varicose veins and spider veins. They can be described as an unsightly blue line on the leg or the thigh.
Reticular veins are generally smaller in diameter than varicose veins (approximately 2mm) and usually blue or purple in color. They do not protrude from the surface of the skin as varicose veins do. These unsightly veins may form on the backs and inner parts of the thighs, on the ankles and legs, and occasionally on the face.
The appearance of reticular veins can be unattractive and discourage women who have them from wearing, shorts, swimsuits, skirts, or any type of revealing clothing. They may also become a source of pain and discomfort in surrounding areas and feed into spider veins as a source of excess blood.
Factors that Contribute to Vein Disease
Although varicose veins, spider veins, and reticular veins are separate venous conditions, they have a number of contributing factors in common. Those factors include:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Standing or sitting for prolonged periods
- High-heeled footwear
- Tight, restrictive clothing
- Exposure to UV rays
What Is Vein Ablation?
Ablation is the surgical removal of body tissue. In minimally-invasive vein removal ablation, the vein is destroyed with laser or radiofrequency energy and removed though eventual re-absorption by the body. Ablation has replaced vein stripping procedures of the past as a treatment for larger varicose veins.
At South Texas Vein Institute, our vein surgeons perform two minimally-invasive vein ablation techniques.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
This minimally-invasive procedure uses radiofrequency energy to heat, collapse, and seal off targeted veins. The surgeon uses ultrasound to map the course of the vein to be treated, inserts a catheter (thin tube) through a small incision near the knee, and carefully guides it through the vein up to the groin.
Radiofrequency waves are delivered to heat the vein and contract the collagen within the vein walls until they shrink and collapse. The vein is treated in segments as the catheter is gradually withdrawn back toward the incision near the knee.
When ablation of the vein is complete, the body automatically reroutes blood flow through healthier adjacent veins, restoring healthier circulation and reducing swelling. The treated vein becomes scar tissue which is absorbed by the body over time.
Endovenous Laser Ablation
Endovenous laser ablation is a cutting-edge, minimally-invasive treatment for larger varicose veins. Using ultrasound guidance, the vein surgeon places a thin laser fiber into the targeted vein through a tiny incision. The vein is numbed with local anesthetic, the laser is activated, and the fiber is slowly and gradually removed from the vein.
This treatment produces a reaction in the vein wall, which causes collapse and sclerosis (hardening) of the vein with minimal discomfort for the patient. Endovenous laser ablation usually takes less than 30 minutes to perform. You can resume normal activities immediately after the procedure, as long as you avoid rigorous activities and exercise.
What Is Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a common, time-honored method for treating spider veins, smaller varicose veins, and reticular veins. It involves injecting a chemical solution directly into the affected vein. The solution causes irritation on the inside of the vein, causing the vein to scar and forcing the blood to reroute through healthier veins nearby.
The collapsed vein is reabsorbed by the body and eventually fades. Patients may need 2 to 3 treatments approximately one month apart for the veins to fade completely.
How Does Sclerotherapy Compare to Ablation for Vein Removal?
Many consider sclerotherapy to be the treatment of choice for spider veins, reticular veins, and smaller varicose veins. It is relatively painless and deals with diseased veins in a minimally-invasive manner. Sclerotherapy is a safe, non-surgical treatment with a low rate of complications that can be used to treat several different types of abnormal veins.
New sclerotherapy techniques using the chemical Aethoxysklerol mixed with air to obtain viscous foam make it possible now to treat deeper, thicker varicose veins with sclerotherapy. These injections may have to be performed under echographic guidance. (Ecography uses reflections of high-frequency sound waves to construct an image of a body organ.)
We use a visualization system known as Transivein to make injection treatment for vein removal as effective as possible. Light is placed on the patient’s skin in a somewhat darkened area. This makes the veins highly visible as an aid to proper injection.
The problem with sclerotherapy lies in treating only the superficial side branches of the diseased vein. The saphenous veins are the two large veins located on the inner side and the outer, posterior side of the foot, leg, and thigh. If the saphenous vein shows venous reflux disease, in which the valves are not functioning properly, results of sclerotherapy alone will be limited.
Advanced Vein Treatments at South Texas Vein Institute
At South Texas Vein Institute, we believe that ELVeS® laser treatment is simply a better option for treating varicose veins. This procedure combines the minimally-invasive, in-office ease of sclerotherapy with the effectiveness of surgery.
ELVeS® laser treatment for vein removal is a safe, routine procedure with a quick recovery that uses less local anesthetic and fewer injections. Sclerotherapy can be an effective treatment for varicose veins in the case of limited recurrence or to treat a few residual veins after RFA or ELVeS® laser treatment.