Varicose veins are distended, often twisted, superficial veins found mostly in the legs and visible through the skin. They are extremely common, more especially in women. When symptomatic, they can cause aching or cramping pain, ankle swelling, skin discoloration and dermatitis. Loss of competency of the valves in the veins that prevent back flow usually initiates the problem. Among its many causes are prolonged standing, pregnancy, obesity, heredity and the use of birth control pills. While usually not dangerous, varicose veins are nevertheless known to predispose to clotting and inflammation of the vein called thrombophlebitis. (Not to be confused with deep vein thrombophlebitis, a potentially deadly condition.)
There are several means of treating varicose veins, the commonest being support stockings, which provide relief only when worn. The oldest therapy is a surgical procedure called ligation and stripping, where the veins are tied and literally torn out from under the skin through small incisions. Sclerotherapy, the injection into the vein of one of several sclerosing agents, is also a very old and often successful treatment. Newer modalities include the use of lasers introduced into the vein and lasers used externally using heat to destroy it. Heat can also be generated using radio frequency waves from a small catheter. But just elevating the legs can provide temporary relief.
–Dr. Howard Bellin