Varicose Veins Laser Treatment: How Does It Work?

From hair to acne, wrinkles and tattoos, lasers have had great success in improving the quality and ease of many of today’s removal procedures, due to their unique ability to selectively destroy certain particles while leaving the surrounding tissue untouched.

And while lasers have traditionally been confined to topical treatments, surgeons have integrated non-invasive surgical techniques and laser technology to develop a procedure that safely and effectively removes varicose veins, without the hassle of expensive and painful vein stripping surgery.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are those ropy, engorged, often discolored blood vessels that are most often seen on the surface of the legs. Not to be confused with spider veins (their more superficial and less serious cousins) varicose veins often cause swelling, discomfort, and pain for those who suffer. While most medical professionals do not consider varicose veins to be an immediate health concern, anyone living with them will tell you that the social and personal costs are nothing to be scoffed at. Aside from the obvious cosmetic concerns, the lack of circulation can cause associated aches and pains, which unless understood, are often written off as untreatable.

What Causes Varicose Veins To Form?

Varicose veins are a result of malfunctioning valves in the circulatory system. These valves are needed to maintain a proper pressure gradient between the arteries that carry blood away from the heart and the veins that carry blood back to the heart. Without a properly functioning valve system, blood becomes increasingly difficult to transport against the force of gravity, especially in the lower extremities.

When these unidirectional valves lose their function, blood begins to reflux and pool in those veins most affected. This pooling of blood is thought to be the immediate cause of symptoms such as cramps, aches, and heaviness in the legs. In more severe cases the added pressure may cause varicose ulcers to form as a result of inflammatory mediators leaking out of the blood vessel into the surrounding tissue.

There are a number of risk factors that predispose one to developing this valve malfunction. Hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy, a history of blood clots, obesity, and occupational immobility are often cited as risk factors, but sometimes it is simply a matter of genetics.

How Does Laser Removal Work?

Laser removal is a procedure used to eliminate existing varicose veins quickly and effectively.  Utilizing specific wavelengths of light to selectively target and coagulate the oxy-hemoglobin contained in blood vessels, laser treatment causes the vein to collapse and be reabsorbed by the body. While in many cases the laser is used topically to remove small superficial veins, many of the damaged veins lie deep beneath the skin. By inserting a small catheter bearing a laser directly into the vein through the use of ultrasound, doctors are able to treat varicosities not readily seen by the naked eye.

What is most notable about laser removal is that this technique does not adversely affect the surrounding tissue, allowing for pinpoint accuracy and a low risk for complications such as scarring or infection. Patients do not need to undergo sedation and are most often back on their feet the very same day. This treatment does not however prevent new varicose veins from forming, and so it is often recommended alongside compression therapy, behavioral changes and a healthy lifestyle routine.

Because there are rare but serious risks associated with laser treatment it is always advised that you speak with a healthcare professional to determine which treatment plan is right for you.

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