Varicose veins are more than just an eyesore. Sometimes they hurt and make everyday life uncomfortable. Endovenous Laser Ablation Therapy (EVLT) is a procedure that closes varicose veins, restoring proper circulation and causing the twisted, bulging veins to disappear over the course of a few weeks.
What are Varicose Veins?
Veins are the highways of the body. They carry blood pumped by the heart along a network of “roads” (arteries and veins) to bring oxygen to all parts of the body. The body’s natural movement helps pump blood back to the heart, which sends it out again in a continuous cycle.
All veins have valves that act like traffic signals, opening and closing to make sure blood is always flowing the correct direction. Varicose veins are veins with broken valves. In a varicose vein, blood flows backward and stays in the vein. This causes the vein to expand, stretch, and become twisted, which prevents it from circulating blood effectively.
The American Society for Vascular Surgery estimates that 20-25 million Americans have varicose veins.
Varicose veins can almost always be identified by their blue or purple color and twisting, bulging, or cord-like appearance. This condition occurs most often in the legs where the blood is farthest away from the heart.
Some patients are bothered by the way varicose veins look, while others experience itching, pain, and tiredness in their legs.
In the most extreme cases, patients suffer bleeding, vein hardening, and skin ulcers near the ankle. These symptoms indicate serious vascular disease. If you are experiencing any of them, you should seek medical attention.
What is Endovenous Laser Ablation Therapy (EVLT)?
Endovenous laser ablation therapy (EVLT) is a minimally invasive procedure that makes use of catheters, lasers, and ultrasound to treat varicose veins. This procedure is performed most often on veins that are still relatively straight and untwisted.
The EVLT procedure begins with an interventional radiologist inserting a catheter into the varicose vein. Using ultrasound to see inside the patient, the doctor guides the catheter through the vein. A laser at the end of the catheter heats the walls of the vein, which closes it. This causes blood to stop flowing through the vein.
As the body recovers after the procedure, circulation becomes more efficient since blood is not flowing through a faulty vein and the problem vein shrinks and fades.
Is EVLT Right for You?
EVLT only takes about an hour, and most patients can resume normal activities immediately without having to be admitted to a hospital. After an EVLT procedure, doctors usually recommend patients wear compression socks during the recovery process to aid circulation. This decreases the amount of bruising or swelling that can happen after the procedure. The doctor usually performs an ultrasound the following week to make sure no clots have formed in the treated veins.
Be sure to consider EVLT if you are thinking of pursuing treatment for varicose veins. Talk with your doctor to learn more about what treatment options are available and which one is right for you.
Or contact the UVA Vein Clinic in Charlottesville, VA to discuss EVLT and other minimally invasive varicose vein treatments with our interventional radiologists. You don’t need a doctor’s referral to get your varicose veins treated–call us today to schedule a consultation with one of our vein specialists at (434) 924-2722.
3 Advantages of EVLT
- Only takes 1 hour to perform
- Requires just 1 small incision
- Can resume normal activities immediately