The most widely used treatment to eliminate spider and small varicose veins is sclerotherapy. Physicians perform this procedure in an outpatient setting, typically at a vein center. Understanding six things before arriving will help patients have a positive experience.
Overview of Sclerotherapy
This procedure has been in use since the 1930s, the Cleveland Clinic reports. Physicians consider it the so-called gold standard of treatment for spider veins. It is also useful for small varicose veins.
After cleansing the area to be treated, the vein doctor, a vascular surgeon, uses a fine needle to inject a special substance known as a sclerosant directly into each targeted vein. Ultrasound is sometimes useful for locating and mapping vessels.
The sclerosant irritates the walls of the vessel. Eventually, the vein closes and is resorbed by the body. Healthy vessels nearby assume its workload.
Doctors consider this a very successful non-invasive procedure because they can eliminate up to an estimated 80 percent of treated veins during one session. For the few patients who do not respond to sclerotherapy, another treatment such as laser therapy is often an alternative.
Important Things to Know About This Vein Treatment
At an initial consultation, the surgeon conducts an exam, takes a medical history, discusses goals, and decides if the patient is a good candidate for sclerotherapy. The University of Michigan Health System indicates that for the best outcome, it is helpful for patients to understand these six things before arriving at the vein center for treatment:
- Some veins require multiple treatments. The procedure is based on the principle of scarring vein walls so that they seal shut and disappear. Certain veins might require several treatments before elimination. Sclerotherapy sessions are as short as 10 minutes.
- Large veins might be hard and lumpy. This is a minor, temporary complication. When it does occur, the condition dissolves over a period of several months.
- Some patients develop brown spots. Pigmentation occasionally occurs when a vein ruptures, causing the sclerosant to leak onto the skin and leave a brown spot. Some patients are more prone than average to this. Although sometimes permanent, these spots usually disappear within three to 12 months.
- Skin ulcers are a rare complication. Very rarely will an injection of a sclerosant cause enough irritation to cause an ulcer. This skin loss eventually heals but might leave behind a small scar.
- Post-treatment care requires compression support. Patients go home with leg compression. This includes gauze pads and a compression stocking on the leg treated. Use of stockings continues for approximately two weeks.
- Most normal daily activities are allowed. However, patients need to avoid strenuous exercise like tennis or high-impact aerobics until the physician permits them.
Sclerotherapy cannot prevent new abnormal veins from developing. For this reason, many patients return for periodic treatments.