What is Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is the medical procedure used primarily to eliminate spider veins and small varicose veins, but it can also be used to eliminate a few other conditions.
The procedure carefully guides a small needle into the vein to inject a sclerosant, which is a chemical (usually a salt solution) that causes the vein to collapse and stick together. The blood from this vessel flows to other vessels. Over time the injected vein turns into scar tissue and fades away.
The procedure is done in your doctor’s office as an outpatient treatment and takes about 15 to 30-minutes. Typically, we see patients undergoing about three rounds of treatments spread over a three-month period. The studies show the treatment is about 80% effective in treating varicose veins and can be used on younger as well as older patients.
Does Sclerotherapy Have Side Effects?
Although the procedure is very safe, there can be both temporary and longer-term side effects of the sclerotherapy procedure.
Although you may not experience any side effects, you could see:
- Darkened spots on the skin
- Multiple tiny red blood vessels
- Raised red areas
- Small skin sores
Gabor Kovacs, M.D., F.A.C.S., board certified general surgeon at the Vein Care Center of Amelia Island reports the main side effect is initially some redness and inflammation of the skin.
These minor complications are certainly less noticeable than the spider vein and usually take a few days or weeks to subside. Dr. Kovacs comments, “On a long-term basis, about 10% of patients may experience what is called spotting or staining of the skin, which is like little brown spots at the site of the injection.” However, even if this occurs, Dr. Kovacs says, “It will usually disappear after about a year or so.”
Are You a Candidate for Sclerotherapy?
You may be a candidate for sclerotherapy if you suffer from unsightly spider veins and are in good health with no chronic complicating conditions. Sclerotherapy can be used in some cases on smaller varicose veins, as well. You can be any age to receive the treatment but should have had no blood clotting issues in the past.
The best candidates have not been pregnant in the past three months or have given birth. Too, you should be medically compliant and willing to follow your doctor’s recommendations to experience the best results from the procedure.
While sclerotherapy is very safe, if you have any of these conditions you should avoid the treatment:
- Allergic to the sclerosing chemical (rare)
- Blood clot or inflammation issues
- Heart conditions
- Pregnant or nursing
- Taking blood thinners
Spider veins can cause embarrassment and, sometimes, discomfort in the people that have them. Sclerotherapy is a highly effective way to eliminate these issues, which primarily occur in the legs and more frequently in women than men. The sclerotherapy procedure is extremely safe and has been used for more than 80 years.
Spider and the more severe varicose type veins occur for all kinds of reasons, from obesity and genetic factors to a sedentary lifestyle or a history of blood clots.
What’s it Like to Have Sclerotherapy?
Before you’re approved for the treatment, your doctor will want to know your medical history, including:
- Allergic responses to any medications in the past
- Any recent illnesses or a family history of illness
- Medications that you’re taking, especially blood thinners, herbal supplements, aspirin, Aleve, or any other over-the-counter or prescription supplements or drugs
Your doctor will discuss the procedure and evaluate your veins and overall health. The doctor may request an ultrasound of the veins of your legs, a painless procedure that uses sound waves to take a picture of the inside structures.
You will want to avoid shaving or applying lotion to your legs before the procedure. Wear comfortable clothing to the appointment.
The sclerotherapy procedure itself doesn’t take very long and it doesn’t require anesthesia. During the treatment, you’ll lie on your back. The nurse will cleanse the area to be treated and then the doctor will slowly insert a small needle into the vein and inject the solution. You may experience a slight stingy or cramping in the leg. Once the solution is injected the doctor will compress and massage the area to disperse the fluid. A compression pad may be put on the area if the doctor is moving to another area to be treated.
After the procedure, you should have no problem getting up and dressed. You can go home the same day but will likely wear a compression bandage or stocking for about two weeks to keep compression on the veins as the solution does its work. It’s a good idea to avoid strenuous exercise during this time. Sunbathing is also a bad idea for the two weeks, as well. Your doctor will likely schedule a recheck of the area in a month to check on your progress.
Is Sclerotherapy Right for You?
If you’ve been plagued by unsightly or uncomfortable spider or varicose veins, it’s time to talk to your doctor about your options. Sclerotherapy is likely just one of the treatments available to help you manage your condition and it may not be for everyone. Some patients may have underlying medical conditions that make them a poor candidate for this extremely effective treatment. However, sclerotherapy is a less expensive and far less invasive option than cosmetic surgery and does not require a hospital stay. Too, some spider veins may simply be too small for the sclerotherapy procedure and many varicose veins are too large.
However, these issues can be unsightly but also can cause swollen legs and pain that interferes with your daily life. Compression hose, exercise, or diet changes may affect the problem. Like all cosmetic procedures, the question of whether sclerotherapy is right for you is a personal decision that you should make with your doctor.
Dr. Kovacs and the team at Vein Care Center of Amelia Island are devoted exclusively to the care of patients with spider and varicose veins or other venous-related disorders. We can help you look and feel your best. Call us today for a consultation.