If the appearance of varicose or spider veins is causing you to feel self-conscious, or if you are experiencing discomfort, pain, or cramping in your legs, it may be time to explore treatment options. One popular treatment method is known as sclerotherapy.

Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used to treat varicose veins and spider veins. Varicose veins are large, swollen, and twisted veins that often appear on the legs, while spider veins are smaller, thinner veins that usually appear on the face or legs.

Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution into the affected vein using a very fine needle, which causes it to collapse and eventually fade away. This article will discuss everything you need to know about sclerotherapy, including the benefits, risks, and recovery process.

Why Sclerotherapy is Performed

For many people, visible veins can be a source of emotional distress and self-consciousness. The appearance of bulging, twisted, or discolored veins can make individuals feel embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies, leading to low self-esteem and a negative self-image. This can affect their relationships, social interactions, and overall quality of life. Some people may avoid certain clothing or activities that reveal their veins, limiting their ability to participate in everyday activities and events.

Furthermore, individuals who suffer from chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, or spider veins may experience physical discomfort or pain, which can further exacerbate the emotional toll of visible veins.

These conditions can cause a range of symptoms, including leg cramps, itching, burning, and swelling. By seeking treatment for their visible veins, individuals can not only improve the appearance of their skin but also alleviate physical discomfort and improve their overall health and well-being. In some cases, removing visible veins can also be a preventive measure to avoid more serious venous problems in the future.

Risks of Leaving Venous Disease Untreated

Venous disease, if left untreated, can lead to various complications and risks. These include the potential development of blood clots, ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis. Additionally, untreated venous disease can exacerbate symptoms such as pain, swelling, cramping, and heaviness associated with varicose veins and spider veins. It is crucial to address these conditions promptly to prevent further health issues and improve overall well-being.

If you’re experiencing concerns about venous disease, such as varicose veins or leg swelling, or if you’re at risk for these conditions, it’s crucial to seek professional advice from a board-certified vascular surgeon. These specialists are well-equipped to evaluate your symptoms and risks, guiding you through appropriate treatment options. Consulting with a vascular surgeon not only helps in accurately diagnosing your condition but also plays a vital role in preventing the progression of vein disease, ensuring you maintain better overall vascular health.

The Types of Veins Removed

Not all types of visible veins are treatable with sclerotherapy. These veins are most likely to have a positive treatment outcome using sclerotherapy alone:

Spider Veins

Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias, can be a common cosmetic issue for many people. These veins are typically found on the face or legs and appear as thin, red, blue or purple lines resembling spider webs. Spider veins are caused by the dilation of small blood vessels near the skin’s surface, and while they are typically not harmful, they can make people feel self-conscious about their appearance. These veins are a milder but common form of venous disease that affects up to 80% of women.  Fortunately, Sclerotherapy has been proven to be effective in treating spider veins and can help improve the appearance of affected areas.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are a common condition that affects up to 35% of the population, especially women. They are caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins, which allow blood to flow backward and pool in the veins. This can cause the veins to stretch, swell, and become twisted. Similar to spider veins, varicose veins can look like webs or branches. Varicose veins are stretched, bulging, twisted, and larger than spider veins commonly affected by the great saphenous vein (GSV). The GSV runs along the inner thigh from the groin to the foot and is frequently affected by varicose veins.

Venous Malformations

It is also used to treat venous malformations in the head, neck, and face, a condition in which the veins do not develop properly and can cause pain, swelling, and other complications.

Sclerotherapy is often recommended as the first line of treatment for varicose veins and spider veins. It is a safe and effective alternative to surgery, which can be expensive and require a longer recovery period.

How Sclerotherapy Works

Sclerotherapy can treat small visible veins. It is most effective for treating small to medium-sized varicose veins and spider veins. Sclerotherapy is not typically used to treat large varicose veins or hemorrhoids.

During sclerotherapy, a solution is injected directly into the affected vein using a small needle. The solution irritates the lining of the vein, causing it to swell and stick together. Over time, the vein turns into scar tissue and fades away. The response time for larger veins might take 3 to 4 months compared to 3 to 6 weeks for small veins.

The sclerotherapy procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes and can be performed in a doctor’s office. Patients may feel cramping and a mild burning sensation when treating larger varicose veins. Most patients can return to normal activities immediately after the procedure, although they may need to wear compression stockings or bandages for a few days to help reduce swelling and improve circulation.

Sclerotherapy is typically performed on an outpatient basis, meaning patients can go home the same day. Most patients require multiple treatments to achieve the desired results, with each treatment spaced several weeks apart.

Sclerotherapy Treatment

Your board-certified vascular surgeon will evaluate you to determine what treatment option is right for you. There are different types of injections used in sclerotherapy depending on your evaluation, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. If sclerotherapy is ineffective or unsuitable, cutaneous laser therapy can be an alternative treatment.

Liquid sclerotherapy injections use a liquid solution to penetrate the veins. Other types of sclerotherapy treatments use a foam solution for their injections. The foam solution is similar to the liquid alternatives, but it contains air or another chemical to give the solution a voluminous texture. Liquid injections mix with your blood to trigger the formation of scar tissue. The foam injections remain separate from your blood. The foam displaces your blood so that it can’t flow through your veins.

Foam injections also contain less sclerosing agent (the chemical that causes the death of the vein), making them a good option for patients who want to eradicate their veins with minimal chemicals.

While both liquid and foam sclerotherapy solutions are effective at eliminating your veins, one type of solution might be more effective for the types of veins in your legs. Since the foam solution covers a larger surface area, it usually works better for large or long veins. The side effects for both types of injections are minimal. It’s common to experience bruising, redness, and soreness around the site of your injection. These side effects usually go away within a few weeks.

The Benefits of Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy offers several benefits over other treatments for varicose veins and spider veins.

A sclerotherapy procedure is efficiently completed within an hour, making it a convenient option for those with busy schedules. Additionally, there is no downtime required post-treatment, allowing patients to immediately return to their daily activities and work. This quick and minimal disruption to daily life makes sclerotherapy an appealing choice for treating vascular issues without significant interruption to one’s routine.

Other benefits of sclerotherapy include:

  • Highly effective: Sclerotherapy can eliminate up to 80% of treated veins.
  • Relatively inexpensive: Insurance may cover sclerotherapy if it is a medical necessity.
  • Improved appearance: Sclerotherapy can improve the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins, which can be unsightly and embarrassing. This can boost a person’s confidence and self-esteem.
  • Improved circulation: By eliminating diseased veins, sclerotherapy can improve blood flow and reduce the risk of complications such as blood clots, ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis.
  • Relief of symptoms: Sclerotherapy can relieve symptoms such as pain, swelling, cramping, and heaviness associated with varicose veins and spider veins.

The Risks of Sclerotherapy

Like any medical procedure, sclerotherapy carries some risks and potential side effects. These can include:

  • Allergic reactions: Some patients may be allergic to the sclerosing solution, which can
  • Bruising: Bruising and discoloration can occur at the injection site and can last for several days or weeks.
  • Pain and discomfort: Patients may experience pain, cramping, or aching in the treated area, especially in the first few days after the procedure.
  • Skin irritation: Some patients may experience skin irritation, including redness, itching, or burning, at the injection site.
  • Blood clots: Although rare, blood clots can occur in the treated vein, which can be serious and require medical attention.

It’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of sclerotherapy with your doctor before undergoing the procedure. Your doctor can evaluate your condition, medical history, and overall health to determine if sclerotherapy is the right treatment for you.

Preparing for Sclerotherapy

Before undergoing sclerotherapy, your doctor will perform a physical exam and may order imaging tests to evaluate the extent and severity of your vein condition. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, for several days before the procedure.

On the day of the procedure, you should wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid wearing tight stockings or pants. You should also avoid applying lotion or moisturizer to the affected area before the procedure.

During the Procedure

During sclerotherapy, you will lie on your back with your legs elevated. Your doctor will clean the injection site and use a small needle to inject the sclerosing solution directly into the affected vein. You may feel a mild burning or stinging sensation during the injection.

After the injection, your doctor will apply pressure to the injection site to prevent bleeding and may massage the area to help distribute the solution. You may be asked to wear compression stockings or bandages to help reduce swelling and improve circulation.

The procedure typically takes less than an hour to complete. Before you leave, your doctor will provide aftercare instructions for you to follow to have the best recovery possible.

After the Procedure

Immediately after the procedure, you can return to work and normal activities. However, you should avoid strenuous exercise and prolonged standing or sitting for several days. You may experience some mild pain, swelling, or bruising in the treated area, but these symptoms should resolve within a few days.

Additional restrictions may include:

  • Sun exposure: Stay out of the direct sun as much as possible during the two weeks following the procedure. Wear broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin against harmful rays and prevent dark patches, also known as hyperpigmentation. UV rays can cause inflammation and damage the treatment areas.
  • Heat exposure: Avoid saunas, jacuzzis, hot tubs, and other heat sources for four weeks after sclerotherapy. Heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, which can delay the healing process or even reverse the treatment’s effects.

Your doctor may recommend follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and determine if additional treatments are needed. Most patients require two to six treatments to achieve the desired results. Make sure to follow your doctor’s post-procedure instructions and wear prescription-strength compression stockings.

Patients should wear compression stockings for at least 48 hours. Though, your doctor will give you a more specific time based on your procedure. When worn consistently, pressure from the stockings helps reduce swelling, enhance blood circulation, and promote healing. After 48 hours, most patients can stop wearing the stockings during the day, but they should still be worn at night for at least four weeks. This is part of the standard recovery procedure after treating both spider and varicose veins, as well as other vein treatments.

It is imperative to follow all aftercare instructions provided by your vein doctor to ensure the smoothest and fastest recovery possible.

Getting Sclerotherapy in Tennessee

Sclerotherapy is a safe and effective treatment for varicose veins, spider veins, and other venous conditions. It is a minimally invasive procedure that can eliminate unsightly veins and relieve pain, swelling, and cramping symptoms. While sclerotherapy carries some risks and potential side effects, these are generally mild and can be managed with proper care and follow-up. If you are considering sclerotherapy, talk to the Vein Centre to learn more about this procedure’s benefits and risks and determine if it is the right treatment for you. Our team of board-certified vascular surgeons at The Vein Centre has over 70 years of combined experience treating venous conditions.

Learn More About Sclerotherapy and Vascular Surgery at Vein Centre

If you’re interested in sclerotherapy for treating spider or varicose veins, or if you have concerns about venous diseases, we at Vein Centre in Middle Tennessee are here to help.

Ways to Learn More

Consultation: Fill out a consultation form and schedule your consult with us at the Vein Centre to get personalized advice.
Contact Us: Visit our website to find a location nearest you.

Why Choose Vein Centre?

Our team of vein doctors at the Vein Centre are all board-certified vascular surgeons, experienced in a range of treatments from sclerotherapy to surgical interventions.

Specialized Care: Discuss your specific concerns, such as leg swelling or risks of developing venous disease, with an expert.
Preventive Measures: Learn about treatment options to prevent the worsening of vein disease.

Don’t wait—take the first step towards healthier veins today by reaching out to us at the Vein Centre.

Sources:

  1. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Sclerotherapy.” (2021). https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/sclerotherapy
  2. Mayo Clinic. “Sclerotherapy.” (2021). https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/sclerotherapy/about/pac-20384692
  3. MedlinePlus. “Sclerotherapy.” (2021). https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007297.htm
  4. Society for Vascular Surgery. “Sclerotherapy.” (2021). https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-treatments/sclerotherapy

American College of Phlebology. “Sclerotherapy.” (2017). https://www.phlebology.org/patient-resources/about-treatments/sclerotherapy