Harvard Health Letter

New ways to treat varicose veins

Simple procedures can eliminate the condition.

Varicose veins are more than just unsightly. They raise your risk of skin ulcers and superficial blood clots if left untreated. Fortunately, there have been some real breakthroughs in treatment in recent years. "Treatment used to be very involved, requiring general anesthesia and a trip to the operating room, but now it's just an office procedure," says Dr. Sherry Scovell, a vascular surgeon and instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Varicose veins


Blood flows forward in normal veins (1), but blood pools in varicose veins (2).

Problem veins

Varicose veins appear mostly in the legs of both men and women. They are different from small "spider veins," which are dilated capillaries that don't pose a risk. Varicose veins are large, bulging, purple veins just under the surface of the skin. "You don't need these superficial leg veins because you have another set of veins, the deep veins, which take 90% of your blood back to the heart," explains Dr. Scovell.

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