Sclerotherapy:  The Basics

Veins have a lot of work to do throughout the average person’s lifetime.  They are the highway system that pushes blood through to every organ in the body.  As blood circulates non-stop through our body, it passes through valves which are essentially one way flaps.  (This is so that blood does not flow backwards.)  When these valves weaken and excess blood begins to fill those valves it can result in visible clusters of small veins, commonly known as spider veins. There are many treatments for spider veins which range from lifestyle changes such as exercising, dieting, wearing compression stockings and not standing for long periods.  However, one of the most promising treatments available for spider veins is Sclerotherapy.  

What is Sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure whereby a special fluid (generally glycerin or a salt solution) is injected into the affected veins.  The purpose of this is to irritate the blood vessel lining which in turn causes clotting.  This causes veins to scar thus forcing blood through healthier, normal veins and this is turn relieves and diminishes the pressure on unhealthy veins.  People who undergo this procedure should weigh the benefits and risks of Sclerotherapy:

Benefits

  • It is usually effective with only one to two treatments
  • It takes only a few minutes
  • It can be done in-office
  • There is minimal to no downtime
  • Generally less painful than laser treatments

Risks

  • Skin discoloration
  • Not covered by insurance
  • Scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Works only on spider veins and very small varicose veins

Before the Procedure

Persons who are considering undergoing Sclerotherapy should first consult with a physician who can evaluate the vein (s) that will be treated.  Also, your doctor will try to assess whether you are suffering from some underlying blood vessel disease.  He or she will look at your medical history including whether or not you have allergies and what medications you are taking.  Prior to the actual procedure patients should avoid shaving or applying lotions to the target area.  

 

During the Procedure

During the procedure the doctor will have you have lie on your back as your legs are elevated.  He/she will then prepare the area before injecting the veins with the solution via a fine needle.  Some report a stinging pain but it is generally thought to be tolerable.  Once the procedure is complete and the doctor withdraws the needle, he/she will apply compression and massages to the area in order to disperse the solution.  

After the Procedure

After treatment patients are usually advised to wear compression pants or hose as much as possible and, to avoid excessive pressure on the legs such as running, weight lifting, or even flying for the first 2 weeks.  Patients should be able to resume a normal routine including exercise.  Patients are sometimes prescribed medications in the event that pain is felt after the first few days but, this is very rare. If any pain is present 24 to 48 hours after procedure, the patient should contact their doctor.

According to some statistics, spider veins affect about one in four U.S. adults, or about 22 million women and 11 million men between ages 40 and 80.  This means that at some point many people will be faced with the decision on which of the many treatments to try for this common condition  All and all, the best advice is that people considering Sclerotherapy should weigh their options and discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure.