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Smooth Out Those Varicose Veins

New procedures can remove the enlarged blood vessels

SUNDAY, May 4, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- You don't have to live with varicose veins.

These enlarged blood vessels usually show up in the legs and are caused by a weakening in the wall of the vein, which causes blood to backflow. Some 40 million Americans -- mostly women -- suffer from the problem. It's partly a cosmetic issue, but varicose veins can also lead to swelling and pain and, eventually, skin ulcers and blood clots.

Fortunately, there are new treatments to banish the blemishes.

Vascular surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., for example, are using radiofrequency energy to zap varicose veins. Instead of traditional surgery involving general anesthesia, a hospital stay and incisions, this procedure involves only a tiny puncture, local anesthesia, no hospital stay and minimal recovery time.

For this technique, the surgeon punctures the skin and inserts a tiny catheter into the vein. The catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to the walls of the vein, heating them and ultimately causing the whole vein to collapse. There's no effect on the person's overall blood supply, because the slack is picked up by healthy neighboring veins.

Other new treatments include ambulatory phlebectomy with new, tiny hooks. Here, the physician uses miniscule punctures to remove veins near the surface of the skin.

More information

Here are additional details on varicose veins from the American Academy of Dermatology.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.
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