Sore legs, restless legs, bruising, swelling and itching… those are some of the symptoms of varicose veins. But even if you’re not suffering pain or discomfort, varicose veins don’t exactly lend themselves to summer shorts or sleeveless shirts when they appear on legs or upper arms.
They can also harbor deeper health threats, so if you see or suspect varicose veins or have a history of them in your family, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or vein specialist for an ultrasound.
If you’ve been diagnosed with varicose veins, there are a number of treatment options available, from traditional vein stripping (a practice that’s largely defunct today) to laser therapy, sclerotherapy and radiofrequency therapy.
Today we’re talking about radiofrequency – what is it, how it works and what to expect, so if your doctor suggests this option you’ll be armed with the information you need to feel confident and comfortable about your decision.
Treating varicose veins with radiofrequency is quite similar to treatment with laser therapy. It’s a straightforward and minimally-invasive treatment that only requires a local anesthetic.
Your doctor will apply anesthetic to the area to be treated then insert a needle into the vein with a radio fiber attached that will generate enough heat to cauterize the vein. This will cut off and stop the blood flow through the damaged vein.
The primary difference between laser therapy and radiofrequency is that radiofrequency generally requires less heat. That sometimes means less discomfort and bruising for patients, but typically both procedures yield the same effects and results.
Radiofrequency may also be chosen for slightly larger veins than can be treated with laser therapy. Your doctor will guide you to the best solution based on your individual situation.
Worried about those “leftover” veins? Don’t be! Your body is quite an efficient machine and will heal itself nicely. The closed and dead veins will eventually be reabsorbed harmlessly into the body and blood flow will be naturally rerouted through healthy veins.
It’s a quick and painless procedure that can have you in and out of your doctor’s office before lunchtime.
There’s very little preparation necessary for radiofrequency therapy. You don’t need to fast or change your routine.
You should also be able to continue taking any regular medications including aspirin or blood thinners, but let your doctor know what you’re taking so he can advise you of any exceptions.
It will help to drink fluids prior to your visit so grab a tall glass of water and get hydrated. Hydrated veins will naturally become larger and that makes them easier to treat.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing on the day of your visit, then relax and let your doctor get to work.
When you’re ready to begin treatment your doctor will get you settled into a comfortable position that’s best suited to access the veins to be treated. A good vein specialist will also likely have chairs designed especially for vein treatments. These chairs can be raised, lowered and tilted in various directions to keep you most comfortable as the doctor performs the procedure.
Your doctor will treat veins higher on the leg first because sometimes closing off those higher veins relieves pressure lower on the leg as well.
No incisions are required so you’ll see no scarring and the anesthetic will keep you comfortable and pain-free.
A treatment session lasts about 30 minutes so even counting prep, paperwork and conversation, you can be in and out of the office and back to your regular activities in an hour.
If you’re looking forward to a few days off of work and a reason to give up walking or vacuuming for a while, you may be out of luck… after your radiofrequency treatment you can drive yourself home or right back to work and resume your normal activities.
No doctor’s note is required after this procedure and though you may want to milk it for a few hours’ rest, there’s no reason that you can’t get right back to your regular routine. Your doctor may advise you to avoid too much strenuous activity but unless you’re a bodybuilder or a marathon runner, chances are you’re going to be right back in the game the same day as your treatment.
You may experience some soreness or discomfort, but an over the counter painkiller will help with that and no prescription medication is required.
Part of a successful recovery includes wearing compression stockings. They’re pretty snug and can be irritating in warm weather but they’ll help you look and feel your best as quickly and effectively as possible. They reduce swelling and pressure, so be sure to follow your doctor’s advice.
Radiofrequency vein therapy has nearly a 98% success rate and can improve the appearance of your legs in only a few days.
The treatment will not only improve your appearance but also significantly reduce or eliminate any symptoms you may have been experiencing, including aching, swelling, restlessness, itching or burning.
The good news is that once a vein is treated, it will not reappear. However, varicose veins are considered a chronic condition so you may develop new varicose veins in the future. It’s important to schedule regular ultrasounds with your vein specialist so you can head off any new instances quickly and efficiently.
Your doctor may also want to see you for a follow up exam or treatment after your first, especially if veins were treated high on the leg. You may require more than one treatment to take care of all the veins but once you know what to expect you can clear a slot on your calendar, get your treatment then go about your business as usual.
Everything in life is associated with some risk, whether you’re going for a medical procedure or driving to the movie theater. The good news is that risks associated with radiofrequency are lower than your chance of catching a bad matinee.
Risks can include blood clots, infection and skin discoloration but a good doctor knows how to minimize risk and get you looking and feeling great.
Choose a doctor with a proven track record using radiofrequency therapy. The more experience, the less likely that you’ll suffer side effects like burns, bruising or discomfort.
Ask your doctor how long he or she has been doing the procedure and find out if the rest of the medical staff is trained to work with patients who may require assistance.
A good doctor will be able to educate you about your condition and treatment options and know how best to make you feel comfortable and confident.
You may also want to consider your doctor’s treatment space. An office equipped for vein treatment rather than a general doctor’s office can greatly improve your experience.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do is ask questions. Your doctor should be able to give you the information you need, put your mind at ease, explain the pros and cons of treatment and help you set realistic expectations.
Armed with a healthy curiosity and the information here, you can approach your next treatment with confidence.