By Jill Buterbaugh, RN, MSN, CRNP, FNP-BC
This is a question often asked by patients but not easy to answer. It depends on what heat source is used to do the ablation, how many veins were treated, how big the veins were, how long they have been present and if there are any other health issues that may be contributing to the symptoms. There is not a specific time frame for symptom relief that can be predicted. Once the procedure is done, the vein is destroyed forcing the blood through other healthy veins. So in some people, symptom relief is immediate. In other cases, it may take more procedures or doesn’t help the symptoms at all.
Endovenous ablation treatment can be done using radiofrequency or laser heat. Radiofrequency heat is a lower heat that applied in cycles over a seven centimeter segment of vein until the vein segment has closed. Laser heat is a higher heat source that is applied to the vein while the laser fiber is slowly pulled out of the vein. The vein is immediately destroyed with both of these types of heat but in order to do the procedure, there are several injections done along the course of the vein to put local anesthetic and fluid in the tissue to protect other structures around the vein from being damaged from the heat. The vein is turned into a scar then the body will reabsorb it which takes months.
Some people have some soreness and a cord like feeling where the vein was while others don’t notice anything. Some people have bruising around the injection and insertion sites while others don’t. It is very different for each individual person but the majority of patients do not have very much discomfort after either type of ablation treatment. Most of our patients are able to return to their normal activities by the next day and have very little recovery time.
Symptoms also vary from person to person and other health issues can contribute or cause the same symptoms as vein disease. There is no test to determine for certain that the varicose veins are causing the symptoms. Sometimes treating the veins is almost like a test. If the symptoms go away after treatment, then we know that the symptoms were coming from the veins. If the symptoms do not improve, then we know to evaluate for another problem.
We know from research, the veins most likely to be causing symptoms that interfere with normal day to day life are those that are dilated more than 5 mm in size and have more than a half a second of blood flowing in the wrong direction. Symptoms most often caused by varicose veins are aching, heaviness, leg fatigue, swelling, and skin changes like rashes or dryness. If the symptoms are a result of a single bad vein, treating that vein will result in immediate relief of the symptoms. But more often, there are several bad veins in a network that require several different treatments to be effective.
Other health conditions that can cause similar symptoms can include diabetes, peripheral artery disease, musculoskeletal disorders, connective tissue disorders, and neurological disorders. Sometimes treating the diseased veins will reduce but not eliminate symptoms caused by some of these other conditions if the vein disease was causing additional stress on the other condition. By eliminating diseased veins, it reduces inflammation and swelling that might have been making symptoms caused by other health conditions harder to treat.
Skin changes like discoloration and scar formation may not be improved after treating the veins. It is still important to treat the veins to prevent further damage or wounds from developing. There is really no good reason NOT to treat the veins once they are causing symptoms. By not treating the veins, you are at a higher risk to develop blood clots and the vein disease will progress causing worsening symptoms like swelling, skin discoloration and even skin wounds. For more information, please contact us for an evaluation.