Varicose Veins

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Varicose veins are enlarged veins at least 3 mm in diameter that can be felt right below the skin's surface. Over time, they may become elongated, twisted and thickened. According to the Vascular Disease Foundation, an estimated 20-25 million Americans have varicose veins.

Are You at Risk?

Hereditary factors usually cause varicose veins. Other causes include:

  • History of blood clots in the veins
  • Female gender
  • Inactivity
  • Obesity (a body mass index higher than 30)
diagram of varicose veins
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Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Some people may not experience symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Leg and ankle swelling
  • Leg heaviness, tension or fatigue
  • Pain at the site of the varicose veins
  • Leg restlessness
  • Leg cramps
  • Itching

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

Our specialists diagnose you through a physical exam and an ultrasound.

Treatment depends on where and how severe the varicose veins are. Compression stockings might ease symptoms and prevent leg swelling.

We offer the following treatments for vein problems.


We inject a chemical treatment directly into the affected vein to close the vein. The vein turns to scar tissue and fades from view. Results are immediate without any activity restrictions.

Endovenous Laser Ablation Therapy (EVLT)

EVLT is a minimally invasive laser procedure that shrinks or scars the greater saphenous vein that runs alongside the inner thigh and calf. This procedure involves general anesthesia and a small incision near the knee. Your doctor guides a wire catheter into the saphenous vein to ablate or burn the undesired vein and cause the body to reabsorb and redirect blood flow.

This procedure takes about an hour. You'll have to wear compression garments for a week and walk frequently after EVLT to prevent blood clots. You should be able to return to work the next day. We will preform a follow-up ultrasound at the Vein Clinic one week after treatment.

Surgical Vein Removal

We offer two types of surgery for varicose veins that are too complex or advanced to treat with other procedures: ambulatory phlebectomy and saphenous vein stripping. Both procedures involve anesthesia, one or more incisions and direct removal of the undesired vein(s).

These surgeries are not performed at the Northridge clinic. You must wear compression garments for 48 hours after surgery and return in one month for a follow-up exam.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.