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Patient Education

The Truth About Light Therapy For Varicose Veins

Can blue light therapy cure varicose veins?

Varicose veins are large, twisted, sometimes discolored blood vessels that bulge out from the skin. Those who have them often feel self-conscious about their appearance. They may also cause pain, itching, swelling, throbbing, thickened skin, and a heavy or restless leg sensation. So it’s not surprising that people are searching the Internet for solutions to their varicose veins.

There are websites out there advertising “blue light therapy” as a remedy for varicose veins. But does it work? What are the facts?

What are varicose veins?

When evaluating potential treatments for your varicose veins, it helps to understand what’s going on under the skin.

Inside your veins are tiny, one-way valves that keep blood moving toward your heart. When these valves become weak or damaged (either from age or injury) the blood can flow backwards and begin to pool inside the vein. This causes the vein to swell and become twisted and enlarged.

People who have varicose veins are at higher risk for conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and venous ulcers. Because of this, you should always have your varicose veins evaluated by a doctor.

The difference between varicose veins and spider veins

Although some people use the terms “varicose veins” and “spider veins” interchangeably, when seeking treatment, it’s important to understand the differences.

Spider veins are thin, superficial veins that form blue, purple, or red webs on your skin. They are typically flat, though they may be slightly raised. For most people they are painless. Varicose veins, on the other hand, occur when your veins become enlarged, dilated, and overfilled with blood. They typically appear swollen and raised, and have a bluish-purple or red color. In some instances, they can cause pain.

Unlike varicose veins, spider veins pose no risk to your health and are treated as a cosmetic condition.

Can light therapy treat varicose veins?

The term “light therapy” is confusing because it can refer to several different things (including treatments for seasonal affective disorder and cancer which we won’t be covering here).

Laser light therapy can be used to treat spider veins. The laser is a focused beam of high energy light that targets the pigment in the blood vessels. It heats and damages the vein causing it to collapse and eventually get reabsorbed by the body.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy works in a similar fashion to laser therapy for the treatment of spider veins; however, it uses multiple wavelengths of light instead of just one and, therefore, can target a larger area.

LED light therapy (a.k.a. red light therapy or blue light therapy) uses light emitting diodes (LEDs) to promote cell rejuvenation and healing. This low-intensity light is sometimes used to improve skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, but not spider veins.

It’s important to note that none of these therapies are recommended for the treatment of varicose veins.

How lasers are used to treat varicose veins

Lasers are used to treat varicose veins in a procedure called endovenous laser ablation. “Endovenous” means inside the vein.

This minimally invasive procedure is performed at your doctor’s office. The area around the vein is first injected with an anesthetic solution that numbs and protects the surrounding tissue. Your doctor will then insert a laser-tipped medical device into the vein. Using ultrasound to see and guide the laser, your doctor uses it to cause targeted damage to the vein. This collapses and scars the vein, sealing it shut. Once the vein is closed, blood flow will naturally be redirected to nearby, healthy veins.

Other treatment options for varicose veins

In addition to endovenous laser ablation, varicose veins may be treated with:

Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) – similar to laser ablation only using radio waves instead of lightwaves.

Vein Glue – generally considered less painful than either laser ablation or RFA, this minimally invasive procedure uses medical-grade adhesive to seal the vein shut.

Sclerotherapy – often used for smaller varicose veins and spider veins, this procedure injects a special medication into the vein which causes it to collapse and eventually disappear.

Phlebectomy – in certain circumstances, you doctor may recommend surgically removing the varicose vein altogether.

Learn more about your varicose vein treatment options

If you’re concerned about varicose veins and want to know more about treatment options, contact Dekalb Vein Center at (404) 501-9377.

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