Spider veins and varicose veins are caused by different factors, including pregnancy, postmenopausal hormone therapy, obesity, heredity and spending long hours on your feet. They can become unsightly and bothersome with some people reporting pain and tingling in the affected areas. Sclerotherapy is a treatment that has been used for vein problems since the 1930s.
What is Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used in the treatment of spider veins and varicose veins. The procedure involves the introduction of a sclerosing solution, which is usually a salt solution, into the affected veins. The solution acts on the blood vessel lining, causing the vessel to swell, stick together and form a scar so that blood is redirected to healthier veins. Eventually, the scar tissue is reabsorbed into surrounding tissues and disappears.
Sclerotherapy is the preferred treatment for smaller veins. For larger veins, it is preferred over laser treatments because the sclerosing solution affects the smaller, feeder veins that support blood flow to the affected veins.
How should I Prepare for Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that requires little preparation on your part. However, it is always a good idea to stop taking medications that affect coagulation, including aspirin, fish oil, vitamin E and any medications classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
How is Sclerotherapy Performed?
The sclerosing solution is injected directly into the target vein using a very fine needle. The solution is usually in liquid form, but a foam solution may be used for larger veins due to its ability to cover a larger surface area. Some solutions may contain the local anesthetic lidocaine.
After the needle is withdrawn, the area is massaged and compression applied to disperse the sclerosing solution and prevent blood from flowing into the injected site. These procedures are repeated for each target vein. The number of injections needed will depend on the size and number of veins targeted for treatment. The procedure should take about 15 to 30 minutes.
Immediately after completion of the procedure, you will be encouraged to walk and move around as staying slightly active will prevent blood clots. You may be asked to wear compression socks, bandages or similar materials for a couple of weeks to make sure that the treated veins remain compressed. Avoid vigorous exercise for two weeks after the treatment.
Are there any Side Effects?
Severe side effects to sclerotherapy treatments are very rare. Some patients may experience stinging and itching on the treatment sites, but you will be instructed on a post-treatment care plan to minimize these side effects. Allergic reactions to the sclerosing solution are uncommon.
What to Expect After Sclerotherapy?
If your treatment involved spider veins and smaller varicose veins, expect visible results in about six weeks or sooner. For larger veins, results may take up to four months for visible changes, and several treatments may be required to get the planned results.
Follow-up visits are needed to evaluate treatment success as well as determine if you will need more treatments. The recommended wait time between treatments is six weeks.