Gone are the days where varicose veins are only treatable by going under the knife on the operating table. Advances in medical technology have paved the way for non-invasive alternatives that work just as well, if not better than varicose vein surgery. Endovenous Laser Treatment, also referred to as EVLT or EVLA, has shown significant promise in the treatment of varicose veins for individuals who are tired of suffering from the swelling, aching, and unsightly bulges that are a common result of a breakdown of vein walls.
Before considering your alternatives to invasive varicose vein surgery, it is important to understand what causes vein issues in millions of adults each year.
Varicose Vein Causes and Symptoms
Nearly half of the population experiences varicose veins during a lifetime, but the causes run wide and deep for most adults. Varicose veins occur when the wall of the vein breaks down, resulting in stretching and incorrect blood flow within the veins. After a period of time, blood may move in the wrong direction – instead of flowing up the legs to the heart, it flows in reverse. This causes increased pressure on the vein walls as blood pools, leaving some with bulging, painful veins just below the surface of the skin.
As we age, varicose veins are more apt to occur in the thighs or calves. Hereditary history of vein disorders creates a higher potential for experiencing varicose veins, but some may also suffer from varicose veins due to poor health (being overweight), pregnancy, or occupations that require significant amounts of time standing or walking. Any activity that places increased pressure on the veins has the potential to lead to varicose veins in adults.
Although varicose veins do not always result in discomfort, most seek out treatment for vein disorders when this common result of vein disorder takes place. Often, irritated skin combined with ongoing achiness are clear symptoms of varicose veins; however, swelling, heaviness in the legs, darkening of the skin and restless legs can all be underlying symptoms of varicose veins as well. Once these symptoms reach a point of consistent frustration or discomfort, varicose vein treatments that go above and beyond home remedies are necessary to maintain quality of life.
EVLT vs. Foam Sclerotherapy and Surgery
Surgery has long been the most common treatment option available for varicose veins, but a recent study reveals that an alternative in EVLT is more suitable and corrective for some individuals. The research uncovered that, out of 214 patients, 61 who underwent surgery, 73 who underwent EVLT, and 72 who underwent sclerotherapy, 97% of patients experienced complete absence of varicose veins within one year of treatment with both EVLT and conventional surgery. Only 51% of foam sclerotherapy patients had no return of varicose veins in the same time frame.
A renown vascular surgeon explains the difference between foam sclerotherapy and EVLT, and why the research results show such a significant disparity between the two. He states that foam sclerotherapy is a technique where a chemical is mixed with air to make foam that is then injected into a varicose vein. While it can be used to treat large varicose veins, it is not as effective as EVLT. Instead, foam sclerotherapy is useful for treating small varicose veins that might be left over after EVLT treatment. The non-invasive nature of both foam sclerotherapy and EVLT are attractive to patients wanting resolution for varicose veins, but results point to EVLT as a better option for most.
While surgery and EVLT have promising results for varicose vein treatment, the latter is becoming more sought after given the additional benefits it provides over its invasive counterpart. Most pressing is the fact that EVLT does not require general anesthesia, only local at the location of treatment, and no cuts need to be made to reach the affected vein. A small laser is used to cut off the vein just beneath the skin which allows the disrupted vein to be closed off. The veins surrounding the treated area pick up the slack of the broken vein, leading to a return of normal blood flow. All of this is done without the need for conventional surgery.
Varicose veins are a common problem among adults but a lifetime of pain, swelling, and unsightly bulges does not have to be the norm. Individuals have multiple options for permanently treating varicose veins, either through foam sclerotherapy (for smaller vein issues), surgery, or EVLT. Determining which vein treatment is best suited for your needs should be based on an in-depth discussion with your vein treatment provider, as well as an understanding of what your expectations should be post-treatment.