Millions of people across the country suffer from varicose veins -- those unsightly and often painful veins that prevent many people from wearing shorts or going to the beach.
Until recently, the only option to treat varicose veins was surgery, but now a new procedure called endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) can zap your varicose veins during your lunch break -- even letting you go back to work that same day.
Dr. Robert Min, director of Weill Cornell Vascular Center in New York and a pioneer of the procedure, explains to The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm that with EVLT, gone are the days when treatment required pulling out the underlying vein.
He says, "We're using a laser to seal the vein closed. We do that in the office under local anesthesia. So the first thing to do is to make the correct diagnosis. Once you've done that, what we do is insert a laser fiber, as you see here, into that vein under ultrasound guidance and then use a laser just merely to deliver some heat in the vein, to just seal that faulty vein closed."
Since local anesthesia is used, all the patient feels are pinpricks, "much like going to the dentist. Not that a lot of people like going to the dentist. There's virtually no pain before, during and after," Dr. Min says.
Best of all, there is practically no recovery time. "That's one of the huge benefits," Min says. "Not only can you, but we encourage people to continue normal activities right away."
Suffering from varicose veins is not just an unsightly problem. This is something that can be a real issue for people. For some, it's even debilitating, Min notes: "The majority of varicose veins cause problems, leg pains, cramps at night."
Explaining the before-and-after pictures he shows, Min says, "This is after treating the underlying vein. What's important to realize is what you see on the leg is not the actual vein we laser. That's a result of treating the underlying cause. So this is a couple weeks after treatment, and often you see marked reduction in the varicose veins."
After treatment, he says, "Bruising is normal, because we're giving little needles to numb up the vein. And typically, people feel tightness in the leg a week afterwards. Other than that, the potential for side effects is extremely, extremely low, virtually nonexistent."
As for the cost, Min says, "It's costly, because anything that involves any new technology [is expensive]. The range is anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 to do the whole leg."
The procedure lasts about an hour.
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