Sclerotherapy Basics—Is It For You?

Varicose and spider veins can be a bother when you’re trying to look your best. While they do occasionally pose a health risk, they are largely a cosmetic issue. Sclerotherapy is a procedure used since the 1930s that can be done to remove these pesky leg and foot blemishes. Treatment of the afflicted vein will both erase your cosmetic concerns and eradicate the potential of health risks. During sclerotherapy a solution, sometimes foam,is injected into the damaged vein. This solution will react with the lining of the blood vessel and cause the vein to close off.Eventually the vein will be naturally reabsorbed by the body. The procedure can be preferable to vein surgery options, as it’s non-invasive and has very little downtime.


What is Sclerotherapy

Most patients will qualify for sclerotherapy, although it’s still pertinent to talk to a dermatologist for further advice and confirmation that it is the right medical treatment for you. There are indeed a number of patients who might not be eligible, including pregnant women. Eligibility also depends on the vein to be targeted. If a particular vein might be considered a necessity for future heart bypass surgery the doctor will most likely avoid going the route of sclerotherapy.

While generally successful, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that there is a chance that the injection will be ineffective. The smaller the treated vein is, the quicker it’ll react to the treatment. Spider veins, which are generally smaller, usually disappear within three to six weeks whereas larger veins will take three to four months to dissipate. Veins that disappear are gone forever, but new varicose and spider vein formation is still possible and may occur in other veins with weakened or faulty valves.

If you are taking any medications, talk to your doctor about whether or not sclerotherapy is right for you. Before the procedure can be safely done, all medication should be avoided for 48-72 hours. Lotion and any skin products should also be avoided.

The medical procedure doesn’t take much time at all; you can expect sclerotherapy to last about 15 to 30 minutes and will be able to return home the same day. Using a fine needle, the solution is released into the targeted vein which may cause minimal discomfort or cramping while the solution is entering (those treating larger veins are more likely to experience this discomfort). After the procedure, the surgeon or dermatologist will recommend that you refrain from any strenuous aerobic activity for a few days to ensure proper healing. Since varicose veinsand spider veins generally appear multiple at a time, when going in to have them removed you will likely have many removed at once. Depending on how extensive your treatment is, you may experience one or more of the following side effects:

  • The first few days after treatment you might feel itchy around the injection site. The skin might also appear red and slightly moreraised than normal, but this will disappear in less than a week. Bruises are also common but may take a bit longer to fade from view.
  • Distinct brown lines or spots have been seen to form in place of the eliminated vein. For most people these vanish in about three to six months; however they have also been noted to become permanent.
  • Tiny, new blood vessels may start to develop at the site of the veins put through sclerotherapy treatment. This process is called neovascularization. Patients should not worry if they see this happen a few days to weeks after treatment. This side effect usually clears up within three to twelve months and requires no additional procedure.

Regardless of your reasoning for the procedure, cosmetic or medical, sclerotherapy can be a highly effective and efficient procedure. Consult with a vein specialist to make sure it’s the right choice for you. Don’t let spider and varicose veins force you to cover up, there are a number of options available to help you fight back.

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