Sclerotherapy is an effective treatment for spider and varicose veins. It is the treatment of choice for most vein experts. The process is simple and minimally invasive, involving the injection of a solution direct into the affected veins. The solution then forces the vein to collapse and scar; thus, forcing the blood to move through healthier veins. Eventually the collapsed vein is reabsorbed into the tissue and the bruising or exterior appearance will fade.
Why Sclerotherapy is Used
Sclerotherapy is done for numerous reasons. In some cases, it is purely cosmetic – the patient needs to remove varicose or spider veins for a better appearance. More often, however, it is used to help alleviate symptoms associated with spider and varicose veins, including swelling, aching, light cramps and a burning sensation in the legs.
While pregnant women can suffer from varicose and spider veins, sclerotherapy is not typically done until after the pregnancy.
What to Expect During the Procedure
Not too much prep work is required for sclerotherapy, but your physician may require that you do not use creams or any emollients on your legs the day of your appointment. During the first appointment, test injections may be done to see how effective they are. If the response is negative, the amount of medication may be adjusted.
Some sclerotherapy procedures are done in multiple sessions depending on the severity of the veins. Regardless of how many sessions you need, you should not experience any pain during the procedure.
What to Expect After
While most varicose and spider veins disappear in just a week, severe cases could take up to a month to disappear. The recovery time from sclerotherapy is minimal – in fact, most patients feel fine within a few hours following the procedure. Work and other activities can be resumed immediately.
While bruising may appear on the legs, it is not severe and it will disappear in a few days. If the veins do not disappear after the procedure, a second follow-up procedure may be required to fully remove them. If blood becomes trapped in a spider vein, your expert can help drain the blood.
After care for sclerotherapy is very simple. While the specific instructions you receive will depend on the severity of your case and number of injections, most after care instructions will include:
- Resume normal activities as quickly as you can – do not limit activity because this could actually reduce blood flow and cause further vein problems.
- Wear your bandages or compression stockings per the instructions of your physician.
- Use sunblock to cover the treated area.
- Take a walk each day to promote blood flow.
- Elevate your legs several times throughout the day, per your physician’s instructions.
- Do not take a hot bath, get into a sauna, or any other hot environment until you are cleared to do so by your vein expert.
- Air travel should be avoided until you are cleared by your vascular expert.
Risk Factors to Consider
As with any procedure, there are risks that could influence the results of your sclerotherapy sessions. These could include:
Temporary Side Effects
These are often found at the injection site and will usually go away within a few short days. They can include:
- Red patches around the injection site
- Tiny red blood vessels
- Darkened skin
- Small skin sores
Side Effects That Require Follow-Up Treatment
Complications with sclerotherapy are rare, but if a more serious side effect does occur, you may need additional follow-up treatment. These types of side effects include:
- Inflammation – Mild to moderate swelling, discomfort and warmth can occur around the injection sites. Aspirin or an antibiotic may be required to solve this.
- Blood Clot – Drainage of the affected area can remove any formed clots and prevent them from draining into your leg, thus causing deep vein thrombosis or DVT.
- Air Bubbles – Air bubbles in the bloodstream are rare, but if they do occur, you may suffer from headaches, nausea or excessive coughing. If this does not go away, your physician may need to perform tests and follow-up procedures to solve the problem.
- Allergic Reaction – An allergic reaction to the injections could occur, but this is highly uncommon.
When Is It Time to Contact Your Vascular Expert?
Call your expert if you have any concerns or questions regarding your treatment. If you experience any of the following, contact your vein expert right away:
- Persistent pain in the feet or legs
- Chest pain
- Leg numbness
- High fever
- Bleeding or oozing from the injection sites