Varicose Veins and Chronic Venous Insufficiency

  • Vascular Surgery
  • Medical Center Campus
  • Main Pavilion, Level 5
  • 111 Colchester Avenue
    Burlington, VT, 05401
  • Phone: 802-847-4548
  • 1-877-817-5030
  • Monday-Friday, 8 AM-5 PM
  • Directions
Varicose Veins and Chronic Venous Insufficiency at Fletcher Allen in Burlington, Vermont

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted blue or purple veins. They can happen when you have a condition called chronic venous insufficiency, which is when the leg veins cannot pump enough blood back to the heart. Fortunately, varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency aren't usually considered a serious health risk.

What are varicose veins?

In healthy veins, blood flows from the limbs back to the heart. Valves are present in leg veins and help prevent blood from flowing backwards. In patients with venous insufficiency, those valves become damaged and no longer work properly.

Risk factors for developing venous insufficiency include:

  • Family history of varicose veins
  • Older age
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot)
  • Phlebitis (blood clots in superficial veins)
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking

Symptoms of venous insufficiency:

  • Ankle and leg swelling
  • A heavy, tired or aching feeling in the legs
  • Pain while walking or after being on one's feet all day

Other symptoms can include skin discoloration, varicose veins and skin ulcers.

Varicose Vein Diagnosis

The process of diagnosis may involve the following:

  • Physical exam - Your vascular surgeon will conduct a full medical history and physical exam. He or she will examine your varicose veins and may measure blood pressure in your legs.
  • Duplex ultrasound - This test may be used to confirm your diagnosis. It can determine if your veins are working properly or if there's any indication of a blood clot. The test involves using high-frequency sound waves which bounce off the blood cells and vessels. The sound waves create an image of blood flow and blood vessel structures in the legs.

Varicose Vein Treatments

A key goal in treating chronic venous insufficiency is to decrease pain and disability and prevent the development of venous ulcers. The type of treatment that is right for you will depend on the severity of your condition and your general health.

  • Compression Stockings - The use of compression stockings is a common treatment for mild cases of venous insufficiency. Compression stockings are elastic stockings that squeeze the veins and improve blood flow in the legs. They are usually worn daily.
  • Sclerotherapy - More serious cases of chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins can be treated with injections or surgical procedures. Sclerotherapy is a procedure used to treat small varicose veins. Your surgeon will inject a chemical into the affected veins, which scars and closes off those veins. The veins are eventually absorbed into the body.
  • Ablation (Closure) - We offer the Closure procedure, a minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation treatment, done on an outpatient basis. With Closure, your vascular surgeon will position a catheter into the damaged vein through a small opening in the skin. The catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to heat the vein wall. The vein wall shrinks and the vein is sealed closed. Blood flow is then re-routed to other, healthier veins.
  • Vein Ligation - With vein ligation, the doctor makes small incisions over the varicose vein and ties off the vein completely. This interrupts the blood flow and causes the vein to shrink and become absorbed into the body. Often times this procedure is done in conjunction with radiofrequency ablation.