When you're standing, your health care provider will check your legs for swelling while doing a physical exam - cankles. You might also have to describe leg pain and aching to your provider.
An ultrasound called a venous Doppler of the leg may be recommended by a health care provider to diagnose varicose veins. The Doppler ultrasound examines the blood flow through a vein using sound waves. It is useful for detecting blood clots in the legs.
Health care providers move a small hand-held device (transducer) against the skin over the body area to be examined (about the size of a bar of soap). Transducers transmit images of the veins in the legs to monitors that display the results.
In addition to self-care measures and compression stockings, varicose veins may be treated with surgeries or procedures. A varicose vein treatment is often performed as an outpatient procedure, which means you usually go home the same day.
Check with your insurer to see if varicose vein treatments are covered. In the case of varicose vein treatment done only for cosmetic reasons, the insurance company may not cover the cost.
By exercising, raising the legs when sitting or lying down, and wearing compression stockings, you can ease the discomfort of varicose veins and possibly prevent them from worsening.
Stockings that provide compression
The first thing to try is wearing compression stockings all day. In addition to helping veins and muscles move blood more efficiently, the stockings squeeze the legs. There is a wide range of compression levels.
The majority of pharmacies and medical supply stores sell compression stockings. If varicose veins are causing symptoms, you can also get prescription-strength stockings covered by your health insurance.
Procedures or surgeries
A health care provider may recommend surgery or other procedures if self-care steps and compression stockings do not help.
Sclerosing. A health care provider injects a solution or foam into the varicose veins to scar and close the veins. After treatment, varicose veins should fade within a few weeks.
Repeat injections of the same vein may be necessary. A health care provider can perform sclerotherapy without anesthesia in their office.
- A laser can be used. Laser treatment sends strong bursts of light to the vein, causing it to fade and disappear slowly. There are no needles or cuts.
- Laser treatments are performed with catheters. Large varicose veins are treated with this procedure. Radiofrequency or laser energy is used to heat the tip of a catheter inserted into an enlarged vein by a health care provider. With the removal of the catheter, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to collapse.
- Vein stripping and high-ligation. Through small cuts, a vein is tied off before it joins a deep vein and removed. Usually, this procedure doesn't require an overnight stay. As the larger volumes of blood flow through deeper veins in the leg, removing the vein won't stop blood flow.
- Phlebectomy (fluh-BEK-tuh-me) performed ambulatorily. Several tiny skin punctures are used to remove smaller varicose veins. The leg is only numbed in the areas that are pricked in this outpatient procedure. Scarring in most cases is minimal.