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Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are visible through the skin and may appear as blue or purple twisted, knot-like cords. Varicose veins can occur anywhere in the body, but are more commonly found on the legs. More than 25 million Americans suffer from these uncomfortable and unsightly veins.
Varicose veins develop when the larger veins beneath them stop working. When this occurs, blood pools in the smaller veins causing them to bulge and take on a ropelike appearance. A change in your weight, pregnancy and aging are all factors that may contribute to the development of varicose veins.
Varicose veins are not usually a serious health problem, but they can be painful and you may be bothered by the way they look. Your doctor may suggest a varicose vein procedure if they are sore or inflamed or if the skin over them is irritated.
Learn more about varicose veins.
Vascular surgeons at the Heart & Vascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) provide comprehensive advanced treatment for patients requiring treatment for varicose veins. Our board certified surgeons' experience and collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of specialists enable them to provide state-of-the-art services with compassion and care. With the proper care and the latest treatment options varicose veins often can be eliminated comfortably and safely.
With 47,000 outpatient visits each year, the BWH Heart & Vascular Center is one of the largest in the United States, treating over 7,000 inpatients and performing more than 8,000 procedures annually at our state-of-the-art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.
At Brigham and Women's Hospital we offer a comprehensive range of treatment options for varicose veins, including the latest advances in minimally invasive treatment. A board certified vascular specialist will guide you through your treatment options and determine the best approach for you.
Minimally Invasive Procedures
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT®). EVLT is a safe, effective, non-surgical laser procedure that eliminates varicose veins at the source. The EVLT® technique involves administration of a local anesthesia and insertion of a thin laser through the greater saphenous vein to close off the vein that is not working.
The procedure is quick, painless and minimally invasive. EVLT takes about 45 minutes and often provides immediate symptom relief.
Patients who undergo the procedure can resume normal daily activities the next day, wear support stockings for about a week and can resume strenuous exercise in two weeks.
While EVLT® is suitable for most patients with varicose veins, it is important to discuss your individual vein health and possible treatments with your doctor.
EVLT therapy is clinically proven, safe and effective with a more than a 95 percent initial success rate with excellent long-term results. After the treatment, patients can often return to normal activities right away so there will be little-to-no disruptions from work or your daily routine.
Sclerotherapy. Using a very fine needle, a solution is injected into the vein causing the lining of the vein to swell, sealing off the blood vessel and preventing blood flow. No surgical incision is needed and most patients have minimal discomfort. Each vein may require several injections, and most veins disappear gradually in two weeks to two months.
This treatment is more effective on smaller, healthier veins and not as successful with larger defective vessels.
Modern treatment for varicose veins relieves symptoms, and helps you look and feel better fast.
The BWH Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro building, across the street from BWH's main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.
If you are having surgery or a procedure, you may be scheduled for a visit to the Watkins Clinic in the Shapiro Center for preoperative information and tests.
During your surgery, family and friends can wait in the Shapiro Family Center where staff members will provide updates.
In addition to our vascular surgeons, patients also benefit from the teamwork of many specialists—all experts in vascular disorders. They work alongside nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, dietitians and social workers to achieve outstanding outcomes for our patients.
Learn more about varicose veins in our online health library.
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