Sclerotherapy: the reduction of unsightly veins
Our skin is one of our most delicate yet protective organs – the largest in the body. It very often acts as a signal when something is wrong within the system and takes a beating from the elements every day. Keeping the skin moist, supple and good to look at is important to everyone at all ages. No more so than when it comes to dealing with unsightly or problematic varicose or spider veins.
Dealing with uncomplicated reticular or spider veins is not a difficult procedure. Minimally invasive, sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used to eliminate varicose veins and spider veins.
Different types of veins
Varicose veins – found most frequently on the legs, varicose veins are large blue, dark purple veins that protrude or bulge from the skin.
Spider veins – small, fine red or blue veins, they lie close to the surface of the skin. They can be found on the legs and face.
Reticular veins – also known as feeder veins, they appear as blue and green veins beneath the surface of the skin. They become enlarged because of increased pressure in the vein. Reticular and spider veins can occur at the same time.
Reasons why spider and reticular veins occur
- Heredity: Having a family member with prominent veins may increase your risk of developing them. Approximately half the people who get varicose veins have a family history of them.
- Age: The normal wear and tear of aging may cause valves in the veins to weaken.
- Gender: Women are two to three times more likely to develop varicose veins than men. Changes in hormones due to puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or taking birth control pills, may increase a woman’s risk of developing varicose veins.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the growth of the fetus increases the pressure on the veins in the legs. Varicose veins that occur during pregnancy usually improve within 3 to 12 months following delivery.
- Overweight and obesity: Having extra weight on the body can put additional pressure on the veins.
- Prolonged standing or sitting: This is particularly true with legs bent or crossed. When standing or sitting with legs bent or crossed, the veins have to work harder to pump the blood up to the heart.
How Sclerotherapy works
- Often the treatment of choice for small varicose veins, sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure done by your healthcare provider to treat uncomplicated spider veins and uncomplicated reticular veins.
- Sclerotherapy doesn’t require anesthesia. It generally takes less than an hour to complete and can be done in your doctor’s rooms.
- A chemical solution is injected directly into the vein. The solution irritates the lining of the blood vessel, causing it to collapse and stick together and the blood to clot, causing the vein to scar and forcing the blood to reroute through healthier veins. The vessel disappears over a few weeks to months.
- Patients are usually able to return to normal daytime activities immediately after treatment.
Benefits and aftercare
- Ideal candidates for this procedure are patients with venous insufficiency who have disease that is poorly controlled with compression stockings and who are not overweight. Healthy people who complain of unsightly small superficial veins (4 mm or less) are also good candidates for sclerotherapy.
- To determine whether sclerotherapy may be of benefit, the site of the defective vein is identified as well as the venous drainage pattern.
- All medical procedures have risks that should be considered carefully prior to treatment – and any dangerous side effects must be fully discussed with your doctor.
- Because this procedure requires injections through the skin, it is not a painless procedure.
- Patients should wear compression dressings for one to three weeks after treatment. A follow-up visit within two weeks is necessary to ensure any evacuation of blood clots in larger veins that may be needed to improve the prognosis and appearance.
- Patients should walk for at least thirty minutes a day, especially for the first few days following the procedure. Activities such as weight lifting or aerobics classes are not advised during this time.