Varicose veins can be embarrassing, cause pain, and in some cases, be harmful to one’s health.
Varicose veins are twisted, clotted and enlarged veins that usually form in the legs. “In normal veins, valves in the vein keep blood moving forward toward the heart. With varicose veins, the valves do not function properly, allowing blood to remain in the vein. Pooling of blood in a vein causes it to enlarge,” according to PubMed Health.
Estimates vary. Anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of all adults suffer from varicose veins -- women are five times more likely to develop them than men.
Standard treatments include removing the vein either with surgery or a laser procedure, which can prevent complications and improve quality of life. But researchers recently found there are differences to be weighed when deciding whether to go the surgical or non-surgical route.
Researchers from Saarland University Hospital in Homburg, Germany report that, “although laser treatment and surgery are both effective in treating varicose veins, it appears that recurrence of one form of the problem is more common with the laser treatment.”
The lead researcher on the study, Dr. Knuth Rass, from Saarland University Hospital says, “Both procedures can be equally offered to the patients with great saphenous vein insufficiency.” However, he adds that patients should be informed and there might be a risk for a higher rate of clinical recurrences beyond two years after the laser treatment.
Rass and colleagues randomly assigned 346 patients to undergo either a surgical procedure called high ligation and stripping or a laser treatment called endovenous laser treatment for their study published in the Sept. 19 online edition of the Archives of Dermatology.
The surgical procedure involves tying off the vein, which runs between the hip and the foot, through a small incision at the hip. In the laser procedure, a catheter is inserted into the vein and the laser's burst of light causes the vein to disappear, according to a release on the study.
The researchers followed up with the patients two years later and looked for recurrence and severity of the condition, blood flow in the vein and other side effects. They also evaluated how satisfied patients were with each procedure.
Overall reappearance was 16.2 percent for those who had the laser treatment and 23.1 percent of those who had surgery. Although there were more minor side effects with the laser treatment, including pain, it did produce better blood flow in the legs and was associated with faster recovery and a better cosmetic outcome compared with surgery, according to the researchers' findings.
Both treatments equally improved the severity of the disease and patient's quality of life. Patients were satisfied with both treatments, the investigators noted.
"Ninety-eight percent of the study population would undergo each treatment once again, when asked two years after treatment," Rass said.
If you or someone you know is considering treatment for varicose veins, they may want to weigh their options between laser treatment and surgery. While this research team from Germany did find some differences between the two treatments, it’s encouraging to know that 98 percent of the study population would undergo their respective treatments again.
Two Varicose Veins Treatments Equally Effective. HealthDay. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=657013
Varicose Veins. PubMed Health. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002099
Bailey Mosier is a freelance journalist living in Orlando, Florida. She received a Masters of Journalism from Arizona State University, played D-I golf, has been editor of a Scottsdale-based golf magazine and currently contributes to GolfChannel.com. She aims to live an active, healthy lifestyle full of sunshine and smiles.
Reviewed September 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Malu Banuelos