Sclerotherapy is a procedure that effectively treats varicose and spider veins. The procedure has been around since the 1930s and is often considered the treatment of choice for improving the appearance of such veins. Sclerotherapy has also been proven to help with related symptoms such as aching, swelling, burning, and/or night cramps.
The procedure is done by injecting an irritating solution directly into the vein. At this point, the patient might experience mild discomfort or itching of the leg for a few minutes. What the solution does is cause the vein to swell and the blood to stick together. The vein then scars, which forces blood to reroute through healthier veins. The old, collapsed vein is reabsorbed into local tissue and over time will fade out of view. This process can take only a few short weeks, but in some cases, several treatments may be needed, and the process could take a few months. Studies have shown that 60-80% of veins that have undergone sclerotherapy are eliminated.
Sclerotherapy is a safe procedure with few complications, but not everyone is a candidate for this type of procedure. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended to wait to have this procedure. If you have had a blood clot in the past, your eligibility will depend on overall health as well as the reason for past clots. Also, veins that could potentially be used for future heart bypass surgery are typically not eligible for sclerotherapy.
Before the procedure, you will undergo a physical exam and check your medical history. Depending on which veins are involved you may be asked to have an ultrasound to gain a better image of the veins. The day before avoid shaving or applying lotion to the legs. Wear comfortable clothing, such as a pair of shorts so that your legs are exposed. The procedure doesn’t require any anesthesia and normally takes less than an hour to complete. After the procedure, you’ll be able to move around so as to prevent any blood clots from forming. Compression stockings or bandages will be required for a couple of weeks. Most people return to their normal activities on the same day as the treatment, but strenuous exercise should be avoided for up to two weeks post-procedure.