Sclerotherapy is a procedure to remove unsightly veins. Spider veins, are tiny red and purple blood vessels and varicose veins are larger, raised veins with a bluish color. Spider veins are usually inherited genetically and are most commonly found on the thighs and lower legs of women. Also, standing or sitting for long periods of time, or pregnancy, can break down vein structure producing spider or varicose veins. Although, these veins carry blood they are not part of the venous valve system and can be removed with little harm to the circulation of blood. Today, due to new technologies both spider and varicose veins can be treated.
Prior to the Treatment
A complete medical history and a careful examination will be done in the initial preoperative visit to determine the general health of the patient. The surgeon will then evaluate how long the problem has lasted, the severity of the symptoms, if the problem is intensified with physical activity, and if prior treatment has been done. Surgery may be recommended before sclerotherapy if deep veins are affected. Depending on the case, laser or light therapy may also be used, depending on the patient or physicians preference. Photographs may also be taken before and after surgery to evaluate the extent of improvement. Moreover, the surgeon will discuss the procedure and realistic expected results for ones specific problems. Preoperative instructions generally include elimination of certain drugs to minimize the possibility of excess bleeding. Shaving instructions will be given if needed and the veins will be marked while the patient is standing before treatment.
The skin is first cleansed with alcohol and the sclerosing (hardening) solution is injected into each vein with a tiny needle. This solution displaces the blood in the vein and through irritation the vein swells shut, preventing blood to re-enter. After the needle is removed pressure is applied to the area immediately. Occasionally, even after injection of all areas of concern, patients will have to return a second time because some veins are more resistant than others and require a second treatment. Veins usually disappear anywhere from two weeks to two months.
After the Treatment
Patients usually report a slight burning during injection of the vein but this disappears in a few seconds. Pressure bondages will be applied on the points of injection and support stockings may be worn the following day. Vigorous activity is discouraged for one day. The after care program consists of a 30 minute walk each day until veins disappear and drinking plenty of water. If one is consistent with wearing support pantyhose, supportive shoes, walking, and drinking water until the veins completely disappear the benefits of sclerotherapy will remain for a longer period of time. It is important to remember that sclerotherapy is not a permanent procedure, especially if one is prone to these veins. Spider and varicose veins do come back with pregnancy, aging, and long periods of standing; however if treatment is done on a regular basis every few years a beautiful leg appearance can be maintained.
Most patients experience no adverse effects, although some minor effects have been reported. Slight blistering and bruising could occur if the veins are especially weak or if the solution seeps into the surrounding areas but will resolve with time. Clots can sometimes occur if walking is not done but these can be removed in a few weeks to allow healing to occur normally.