Health A-Z

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Treatment for most people with mild symptoms of varicose veins includes:

  • Elevating and supporting the legs periodically throughout the day

  • Wearing compression stockings

For varicose veins that are close to the skin, dermatologists or vascular surgeons may offer sclerotherapy or laser therapy. Sclerotherapy involves injection of an irritating into the affected vein, causing the vein to scar and shut down. Laser therapy can be effective for the smallest varicose veins.

People with severe venous insufficiency can develop recurrent blood clots and skin ulcers. The traditional surgery is called vein stripping and ligation. In this surgical procedure, the abnormal veins are tied off and pulled out of the body through series of small cuts in the skin. Another surgical procedure, called ambulatory phlebectomy, also removes veins through small skin incisions, but it is less invasive than classic stripping and ligation.

Newer therapies include endovenous thermal ablation and transilluminated power phlebotomy (a modified form of ambulatory phlebotomy). Endovenous thermal ablation uses laser or high-frequency radio waves to heat the abnormal veins. These newer procedures appear to cause less scarring, with less "down time."

External laser therapy is reserved primarily for cosmetic removal of small, superficial, spider-like veins.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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