Erasing unsightly veins on your legs

HOUSTON They can be caused by a lot of things like aging, pregnancy and even hormonal changes. Now, doctors are having great success treating vein problems with a variety of new weapons.

Angie Brod and Kimberly Harding both have varicose and spider veins. Those are the tiny purple or red squiggly lines that occur when valves in the vein malfunction or become weak.

"We walk on two feet and gravity is what makes them come out in people," said Dr. Mark Skellenger with the Cosmetic Vein Centers of Texas.

Dr. Mark Skellenger says there are breakthroughs being made in the treatment of these veins including a controversial new technique being used all over Europe.

It involves an injectable foam. Dr. Skellenger makes it by mixing vein-collapsing medicine with air which helps to repair more of the damaged vein.

"As a result of these millions of bubbles, more of the medicine reaches the vein wall at one time," he explained. "So it's much more effective."

It's a promising new treatment, but not yet approved by the FDA for use in the United States.

"Across the world, this is the technique being used now for sclerotherapy," said Dr. Skellenger.

So what is available for Angie and Kim? Right now, experts agree the most successful treatments involve injections and laser.

Kim opted for a combination of both.

"I'm on my feet a lot and I just noticed that they were getting worse and worse throughout the last couple of years," Kim told us.

Angie's varicose veins are worse. She's a teacher and believes it's from spending so much time on her feet.

"When your students ask about it, it's kind of time to do something about it," she explained.

"This is what is causing her varicose veins," said Dr. Skellenger. "When she stands up, the blood actually goes backwards."

After using an ultrasound to assess the problem, Dr. Skellenger inserts a fiber optic laser directly into the vein. Withdrawing the laser seals off the vein from the inside, repairing it.

In most cases, it'll take about five or more weeks before the veins totally disappear. Both women say, so far, they're satisfied with the results.

"I'm looking forward to the summer of 2008 for the first time," said Kim.

"I got shorts for Mother's Day," Angie said. "So my family got me some shorts. So it feels good."

The spider vein treatment costs about $600. Because it's considered a cosmetic procedure, it is not covered by insurance. The varicose treatment can run between $1,900 and $5,000. It is covered by most insurance programs.

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