Fortunately, treatment usually doesn't mean a hospital stay or a long, uncomfortable recovery. Thanks to less invasive procedures, varicose veins can generally be treated on an outpatient basis.
Ask your doctor if insurance will cover any of the cost of your treatment. If done for purely cosmetic reasons, you'll likely have to pay for the treatment of varicose veins yourself.
Self-care — such as exercising, losing weight, not wearing tight clothes, elevating your legs, and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting — can ease pain and prevent varicose veins from getting worse.
Wearing compression stockings all day is often the first approach to try before moving on to other treatments. They steadily squeeze your legs, helping veins and leg muscles move blood more efficiently. The amount of compression varies by type and brand.
You can buy compression stockings at most pharmacies and medical supply stores. Prices vary. Prescription-strength stockings also are available.
Additional treatments for more-severe varicose veins
If you don't respond to self-care or compression stockings, or if your condition is more severe, your doctor may suggest one of these varicose vein treatments:
Sclerotherapy. In this procedure, your doctor injects small- and medium-sized varicose veins with a solution that scars and closes those veins. In a few weeks, treated varicose veins should fade.
Although the same vein may need to be injected more than once, sclerotherapy is effective if done correctly. Sclerotherapy doesn't require anesthesia and can be done in your doctor's office.
- Foam sclerotherapy of large veins. Injection of a large vein with a foam solution is also a possible treatment to close a vein and seal it. This is a newer technique.
- Laser surgeries. Doctors are using new technology in laser treatments to close off smaller varicose veins and spider veins. Laser surgery works by sending strong bursts of light onto the vein, which makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. No incisions or needles are used.
- Catheter-assisted procedures using radiofrequency or laser energy. In one of these treatments, your doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) into an enlarged vein and heats the tip of the catheter using either radiofrequency or laser energy. As the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to collapse and seal shut. This procedure is the preferred treatment for larger varicose veins.
- High ligation and vein stripping. This procedure involves tying off a vein before it joins a deep vein and removing the vein through small incisions. This is an outpatient procedure for most people. Removing the vein won't adversely affect circulation in your leg because veins deeper in the leg take care of the larger volumes of blood.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy (fluh-BEK-tuh-me). Your doctor removes smaller varicose veins through a series of tiny skin punctures. Only the parts of your leg that are being pricked are numbed in this outpatient procedure. Scarring is generally minimal.
- Endoscopic vein surgery. You might need this operation only in an advanced case involving leg ulcers if other techniques fail. Your surgeon uses a thin video camera inserted in your leg to visualize and close varicose veins and then removes the veins through small incisions. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis.
Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy generally improve without medical treatment within three to 12 months after delivery.
A number of alternative therapies claim to be helpful treatments for chronic venous insufficiency, a condition associated with varicose veins in which leg veins have problems returning blood to the heart. These include:
- Butcher's broom
- Grape (leaves, sap, seed and fruit)
- Horse chestnut
- Sweet clover
Talk with your doctor before trying any herb or dietary supplement to make sure these products are safe and won't interfere with any medications.