Varicose Veins 101

Most people have heard about varicose veins from relatives or friends who have this painful, less-than-attractive condition. Varicose veins are usually referred to when talking about the large, bulging and discolored veins in legs.

To truly understand this medical condition, and what can be done to treat varicose veins, you need to understand why they appear.

Veins get backed up and swollen

The word “varicose” comes from the Latin word “varicosus” which translates to abnormally swollen. Varicose veins are blood vessels that have become permanently swollen or enlarged, and can no longer efficiently carry blood back to your heart.

In your circulatory system, your arteries carry blood away from the heart while your veins return blood back to the heart. If the system is not working properly and the veins can’t return the blood, the vein gets backed up and swells.

When this happens, the veins become enlarged and varicose veins appear as flesh colored, dark purple or blue. They often appear twisted and bulging, and can be swollen and raised above the surface of the skin.

Treatments that work Varicose Veins Before and After

Besides making you feel shy about showing your legs, varicose veins can cause pain, fatigue, itching and ankle swelling. So, VCU Baird Vascular Institute offers three of the most common treatments that can deliver relief.

Treatments include:

• Endovenous thermal ablation

An interventional radiologist uses an ultrasound to guide a small catheter, or tiny tube, through the varicose vein. The catheter delivers heat to cause the vein to close. The procedure itself takes about 45 minutes, is performed with local anesthesia only and/or with intravenous sedation and, while it is not uncommon to feel some unfamiliar sensations, should not be painful.

Ambulatory phlebectomy

This minimally invasive surgical technique can be used to treat varicose veins just under the skin. The abnormal vein is removed through a tiny incision or incisions, using a special set of tools. The procedure is done with local anesthesia and intravenous sedation. The procedure typically takes one to two hours or less.

• Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy

This procedure treats large networks of veins just below the surface of the skin. During this procedure, a small needle is advanced into the vein under ultrasound guidance. Then a foam solution is injected to destroy the vein. Multiple ultrasound treatments are often required before all of the veins are totally destroyed.

At the VCU Baird Vascular Institute, we know all about treating varicose veins to help you look and feel better. BVI is an ideal place, with our friendly, comfortable outpatient environment and without the hassles of dealing with a hospital operating room.For more information, please call (804) 828-2600 or email