Varicose Veins

Know More: Varicose Veins

Trustworthy information, straight from the source. Education is the first step in an empowering healthcare plan. Learn more about varicose veins, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.

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Condition Overview

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins, also known as venous insufficiency, is a condition that prevents blood from flowing out of your legs and back to your heart. Veins contain valves that help blood flow in one direction. Venous insufficiency means the valves do not close correctly or fully. Blood flows back and pools in your leg. This can cause problems such as varicose veins. Venous insufficiency may also be called chronic venous insufficiency or venous stasis.

Risk Prevention

What are the risks for varicose veins?

  • A leg injury or blood clot
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Pregnancy
  • Older age
  • A family history of varicose veins
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Obesity, or not getting enough exercise

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

What are the signs and symptoms of varicose veins?

  • Visible veins on your legs that may be small and red or large, thick, and blue
  • Swelling in your ankles or calves
  • Changes in skin color, such as dark or purple skin
  • An ulcer (open sore) on your leg
  • Leg pain that is worse when you are menstruating (women) or when you stand, and better when you elevate your legs
  • Burning or itching
  • Cramps that happen at night
  • Thick, hard skin on your legs and ankles
  • Feeling of heaviness in your legs

How are varicose veins diagnosed?

  • Venous duplex imaging is a procedure used to examine the blood flow through veins. A gel will be applied to your legs. Your healthcare provider will slide a small device called a transducer across the veins. The transducer is a microphone that helps your healthcare provider hear blood moving through the vein.

How are varicose veins treated?

North Memorial Health Heart & Vascular offers vascular ultrasound screening for patients experiencing symptomatic varicose veins or venous insufficiency. If treatment is recommended, our intervention cardiologists use the latest technology including:

  • Endovenous laser ablation (EVLT) is a non-surgical, minimally invasive treatment that eliminates varicose veins and treats symptoms of venous insufficiency with little or no pain, scarring, or downtime. During the EVLT procedure, a thin laser fiber is inserted into the affected vein. Heat is emitted from the laser to close and seal the vein. Complications with EVLT procedures occur infrequently, but may include inflammation of superficial veins, infection, and/or blood clot.
  • Venaseal is a non-surgical minimally invasive treatment that eliminates varicose veins and treats symptoms of venous insufficiency with little or no pain, scarring, or downtime. During the Venaseal procedure, a thin sheath is inserted into the affected vein. A medical adhesive is delivered endovenously to close the vein. There is virtually no risk of a blood clot. However, infrequently complications can occur including inflammation, infection, and, potentially, allergic reactions.
  • Micro phlebectomy (also known as ambulatory phlebectomy) is a minor surgical procedure that is performed in the office by a cardiologist to remove varicose veins using a specialized instrument to extract the vein via small incisions. Patients can expect to return home one hour post-procedure and usually return to normal activity in one-two days. This procedure is sometimes combined with EVLT or Venaseal. Complications with micro phlebectomy occur infrequently, but may include bleeding, infection, localized swelling, blood clot and, in rare cases, nerve damage.

Preparing for Care

What do I need to consider when talking to my provider about vein treatment?

Talk to your healthcare provider to understand the benefits and risks of each vein procedure for which you qualify.

More Information about Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins 101

Lisa Hoepner, PA-C, with North Memorial Heart & Vascular Institute explains varicose veins, common causes, treatment options, and things to consider when choosing treatment. [Read more]