Can Laser Therapy Remove Varicose Veins in the Legs?
There are several types of lasers used in vein procedures. Not all of them work for varicose veins. Certain lasers are only effective against small spider veins. Others treat large varicose veins and vein diseases. If you have varicose veins in the legs, they’re likely linked to a vein disease called Chronic Venous Insufficiency.
Book an appointment with a board certified vein doctor for varicose veins in the legs. These vein specialists are uniquely trained to treat larger, deeper veins and vein diseases that surface lasers won’t repair. They also treat superficial spider veins, so they offer the most comprehensive laser care for veins.
What Kind of Laser Fiber or Device Treats Varicose Veins?
Some small spider veins are amenable to surface laser treatment. These devices are positioned on the skin where they emit a thin laser beam that is absorbed through the skin by the blood inside the damaged vein. This destroys the spider vein, rendering it either lighter or invisible through the skin.
Larger spider veins and varicose veins require a different laser approach. For these blood vessels, vein doctors inject tumescent anesthesia around the vein to protect the adjacent tissue from heat. Then, they insert a needle into the skin with a tiny laser fiber on the tip. Next, they activate the laser so that thermal energy is delivered directly to the walls of the vein. This heats the vein and prompts it to scar shut.
This process is called endovenous laser ablation or endovenous laser therapy. It is used to treat spider and varicose veins, as well as the broken valves in deeper veins that caused those surface veins to appear. Varicose veins in the legs are often caused by valve failure since leg veins pump blood against gravity, increasing the likelihood of blood flowing in reverse and elevating pressure in the vein.
How Does Laser Energy Remove Varicose Veins?
Lasers produce thermal energy that heats either the blood (surface lasers) or the vein walls (endovenous lasers). Heating the vein creates scar tissue that renders the vein impassable. The result is that blood is rerouted into healthy veins instead of collecting in the defective vein. Eventually, the vein is reabsorbed by the body so that it’s no longer visible. Since varicose veins in legs often stem from excess pressure in the vein, it’s important for the vein doctor to also close off the valve that’s allowing venous reflux and elevated pressure.
How Does Laser Treatment Differ from Vein Stripping?
Lasers treat varicose veins while they remain inside the body. Vein stripping (phlebectomy) surgically cuts varicose veins out of the body. Surgeries like vein stripping were more common a few decades ago, before technological advances made them less necessary. For most patients, it is now safer, quicker, gentler, and more affordable to treat veins with minimally invasive measures like endovenous lasers.
Traditional vein stripping, which involves general anesthesia, large incisions, and recovery time, is reserved for patients with blood clots and complicated varicose veins. The majority of people are good candidates for non–surgical vein removal or less invasive surgeries like ambulatory phlebectomy.
Laser therapy takes 15-30 minutes and it’s performed in the vein doctor’s office. Patients can resume their usual activities immediately, and there are no large wounds to heal. Visit a minimally invasive vein doctor before a vascular surgeon. It’s unlikely your veins require vein stripping surgery.
Do Lasers Treat the Saphenous Vein or Deeper Veins?
Surface laser treatments address small, damaged blood vessels just beneath the skin. This includes small saphenous veins, spider veins, and broken capillaries on the face that stem from sun damage, injury, or harsh facial hygiene regimes. Endovenous lasers work on deeper veins, including the great saphenous vein, as well as the deeper veins that the saphenous veins pump blood to, to carry it back to the heart.
How Do I Know If Lasers Will Work for My Varicose Vein?
The short answer is that you need to ask your vein doctor. The damage you see at the surface might not be indicative of the severity of the problem in deeper veins. Some asymptomatic veins signify vein disease, which is one reason Chronic Venous Insufficiency is underdiagnosed.
Another reason patients don’t know they have vein disease is that they mistake the symptoms for other issues. Itching, cramping, heaviness, restlessness, fatigue, and swelling in the legs can all result from vein disease. A vein doctor can determine whether surface lasers will suffice, or whether you need endovenous lasers or an entirely different approach.
Does Laser Treatment Hurt or Will They Numb the Area?
Surface lasers can produce a bit of burning or discomfort on the skin, but this is a temporary sensation. Endovenous lasers are paired with a numbing solution on the skin and a tumescent anesthetic around the exterior of the vein. So, the procedure is not painful, but the lasers are hot, so they can produce brief discomfort. Ask our vein doctors about radiofrequency ablation. This procedure works like endovenous laser ablation, but radiofrequency is not as hot as laser energy, so our vein specialists prefer it over laser therapy.
Can I Avoid Laser Treatment If I Wear Compression Stockings?
Some patients who wear compression stockings experience a reduction in symptoms like swelling, heaviness, and cramping in the legs. Other patients don’t see any symptom improvement. Some patients are advised against wearing compression stockings if they take certain medications or have specific health issues. Compression stockings are ineffective unless you have the correct size since the wrong amount of compression could be futile or even harmful.
While symptoms may improve, this is a long-term strategy for varicose veins, and it will not remove them. A better strategy is seeing a vein doctor who can determine whether compression stockings are right for your specific condition. Board certified vein doctors can also administer quick treatments that eliminate the need for support stockings altogether.
Can I Heal Veins by Avoiding Long Periods of Inactivity?
Avoiding long periods of inactivity is wise if you are able. But some patients cannot exercise their legs, and others have jobs that require them to remain in a seated or standing position for hours at a time. Increasing exercise and managing your weight are important tools to optimize circulation and prevent more spider and varicose veins. But these steps will not remove the vein damage that already exists. That task belongs to a qualified vein doctor.
What Other Treatments Remove Varicose Veins in California?
So, can laser treatment remove varicose veins in the legs? The answer is that certain lasers remove varicose veins for certain patients. Lasers are powerful tools, but they aren’t advised for everyone. Some veins are better suited to non-thermal techniques like sclerotherapy. Some patients prefer methods like vein adhesives or mechanochemical ablation. And patients who are amenable to thermal ablation might prefer radiofrequency over lasers. The key is to choose an accredited vein center with all the latest vein treatments, so you can select your ideal method.