Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. They’re most common in the legs and ankles. They usually aren't serious, but they can sometimes lead to other problems.
Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves and veins in your legs. Normally, one-way valves in your veins keep blood flowing from your legs up toward your heart. When these valves don’t work as they should, blood collects in your legs and pressure builds. This causes the veins to become weak, large and twisted.
HealthPartners and Park Nicollet offers comprehensive treatment for varicose veins. We treat both legs during the same appointment to help save you time and money. Our treatment is also minimally invasive, meaning less recovery time. Schedule a screening to learn more and understand treatment options.
Symptoms of varicose veins may differ from person to person. People with varicose veins might experience a variety of symptoms including:
- Ankle skin that looks brown or gray
- Dull, heavy, aching legs, especially after standing for a long time
- Itching around the veins
- Purple, bulging veins easily seen under your skin
- Skin ulcers (open sores) near the ankle
- Swelling of the legs
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care doctors. Our primary care doctors are experts in diagnosing hundreds of conditions. If your care requires additional expertise, we’ll connect you directly with one of our vascular specialists.
Your doctor will look at your legs while you’re standing. We’ll look for swelling and other signs of varicose veins. You also may have a special test, called a venous Doppler exam, to learn more about your veins. A venous Doppler exam uses ultrasound waves to evaluate the structure of your veins and blood flow. This technique helps diagnose different vein problems, including weakened valves and blood clots.
The recommended treatment for varicose veins depends on your unique condition. Varicose vein treatments include:
Also known as ambulatory phlebectomy, avulsion is a surgical procedure usually used to remove bulging varicose veins. During avulsion, we make tiny punctures in the skin. Then, we use tiny hooks to pull the damaged veins through the punctures and out of the leg. We’ll use local anesthesia to numb the affected areas and keep you comfortable during the procedure. Stitches aren’t needed. Most people can return to normal activities two to three days after the procedure. Avulsion can be done at the same time as radiofrequency ablation.
This is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat the saphenous vein. It’s an effective procedure with a 98% success rate. During radiofrequency ablation, a thin, flexible tube is inserted into the vein. This tube is called a catheter. The tip of the catheter uses radiofrequency energy to heat the walls of the vein. The heat closes the vein so blood can’t flow through it. We’ll only use the closure procedure on damaged veins. The damaged vein will be absorbed by the body and disappear over time. We won’t make any incisions or use needles during radiofrequency ablation.
Sclerotherapy is used to treat spider veins and small varicose veins. During sclerotherapy, a chemical is injected into the vein that causes it to harden, scar and close so it no longer fills with blood. The vein will shrivel and disappear in a few weeks. Sometimes, multiple injections may be needed to completely close the vein. Sclerotherapy can’t be performed at the same time as other procedures. But sclerotherapy doesn’t require anesthesia and can be done in the doctor’s office.
Vein stripping is a surgical procedure that isn’t commonly used. During this procedure, we’ll remove your saphenous vein. We use general anesthesia during vein stripping to help keep you comfortable. It typically takes between one and four weeks to recover from the procedure.
Laser treatment, also called thermal ablation, can be effective for smaller varicose veins. Your doctor will use a laser to shoot strong bursts of light into the vein. This will cause the vein to close and fade over time.
Not necessarily. Your doctor may suggest exercise, compression socks, diet changes or a number of other treatment options before recommending surgery. If varicose veins pose a threat to your health, surgery may be recommended as the first treatment option.
Yes, varicose veins and spider veins are different. Varicose veins are twisted, bulging veins under the skin. They can appear blue, red or purple and cause skin discoloration around the vein. They usually cause pain, swelling and a feeling of heaviness, and can cause blood clots if left untreated.
Spider veins are tiny red or blue veins that look like a spider web. They don’t cause other health problems and are almost always painless. Spider veins can be treated, but this is purely for cosmetic reasons.
It’s possible for you to have both varicose veins and spider veins. If you have spider veins, your doctor will talk to you about treatment options.
We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.
Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.
Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started:
- HealthPartners: 800-883-2177
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota: 800-382-2000
- CIGNA: 800-244-6224 (insurance through work); 866-494-2111 (insurance directly or through the Exchange)
- Medica: 800-952-3455
- Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
- PreferredOne: 763-847-4477 (in the Twin Cities); 800-997-1750 (outside the metro area)
- United Healthcare: 877-842-3210