What is sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a non-invasive treatment option for varicose veins and spider veins. The term sclerotherapy is a broad description of the medical technique that involves injecting medication into a vein in order to shut it down. The technique has been around for longer than most people imagine. Around 460 BC, Hippocrates wrote of inserting a slender iron instrument into the vein to cause thrombosis. While that early use may not fully represent sclerotherapy as it is done today, it is certainly perceived as a precursor to this treatment. As scientific practice continued to evolve, numerous physicians wrote of the existence of varicose veins and potential treatments for them. Today, sclerotherapy is the most common clinical approach to spider veins, telangiectasia, and their concomitant symptoms. The treatment eliminates the visible veins as well as the itching, pain, burning, and other symptoms that may come with them. It is also a common treatment for varicose veins.
Who is a Good Candidate for Sclerotherapy?
During a consultation here at Kendall Dermatology, patients engage in a thorough consultation with the doctor. We also perform a comprehensive medical history to ensure that there are no contraindications to treatment, such as a history of blood clots. In addition to our formal examination of the veins in question, the information obtained during our consultation helps us determine if sclerotherapy is the best option for treatment. Generally, most adults who have visible spider or varicose veins are good candidates for sclerotherapy. You may be a good candidate for sclerotherapy if you have varicose veins or spider veins that cause:
- Unhappiness with the appearance of your legs
How Does Sclerotherapy Work?
The sclerotherapy procedure does not take long. During the appointment, the doctor injects a small amount of a specific medication into the veins that are visible or bulging. The medication, a sclerosing agent, causes the internal walls of the vein to swell. The swelling blocks blood from circulating through the vein, resulting in its shift to another nearby vein. Without consistent circulation, the vein closes down. Over time, the body absorbs the broken down vein as debris.
Are There Alternative Treatments for Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?
There are a few different ways to address spider veins and varicose veins. A healthy lifestyle is a must to keep your veins as functional as possible. Experts recommend walking daily and performing exercises like calf raises to strengthen the muscles in the lower leg. These muscles compress the veins and facilitate the flow of blood upward toward the heart. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading risk factors associated with spider veins and varicose veins. If you work at a job that involves sitting for long periods, create the habit of getting up every hour to move your legs for three to five minutes. If you notice the onset of spider veins or varicose veins, you may slow their progression by wearing compression stockings and elevating your legs at the end of the day. Various vein treatments have been developed over the years. While they may use different technologies, such as laser energy, they ultimately all work the same as sclerotherapy, which is to force affected veins to close.
How is sclerotherapy performed?
Spider vein treatment is performed by a medical professional and works by irritating the inner lining of the veins themselves using a special injectable solution. This irritation causes a collapse in the blood vessel and forces the walls of the vein to stick together, closing off the blood flow. Then, the vein itself turns into scar tissue and cannot be seen through the leg anymore. This technique, which has been used since the 1930s, has proven to reduce the look of large spider veins and varicose veins.
How long does sclerotherapy take?
Spider vein treatment is usually done in-office during a short, 15-30 minute procedure. The procedure itself is relatively comfortable but may cause some cramping during the first few minutes.
Will I need multiple spider vein treatments?
Depending on your personal needs, you may only require one procedure. However, those who have numerous veins that must be treated could require several short office visits.
How long does it take to see results after sclerotherapy?
Many patients see results within three to six weeks following spider vein treatment. However, if you have numerous veins or larger veins to treat, it could take three to four months before you are able to see the full results of sclerotherapy.
Side Effects of Sclerotherapy
For most patients, the side effects of spider vein treatment include minor pain or discomfort during the procedure itself. Sclerotherapy side effects might also include:
- Skin discoloration
These side effects generally subside within a few days of your procedure. Additionally, some patients notice brown or darkened lines near the injection site, which typically clear up within six months of the procedure. In some cases, these marks remain permanent or last longer than six months. Some of the other more serious side effects of sclerotherapy may include:
- Allergic reactions
- Blood clotting
- Inflammation near injection site
- Skin ulcers near injection site
Recovery After Spider Vein Treatment
Sclerotherapy requires little or no downtime following treatment. Most patients can immediately return to their normal activities following their office visit and treatment. Speak with your doctor to learn exactly what steps you should take following your spider vein treatment. To get you started, here are some helpful tips to refer to in the days after your sclerotherapy treatment:
- Wear compression socks/stockings in the first 24 hours following the treatment (if advised by your dermatologist/doctor)
- Wear stockings at all times unless showering or sleeping
- Use acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) for any pain or discomfort during sclerotherapy recovery
- Stay active to reduce the chances of blood clotting
What to avoid after sclerotherapy
In the days following your spider vein treatment, there are some adjustments you should expect to make to your normal lifestyle. Speak with your doctor if you have any questions and to get a complete list of things to avoid following spider vein treatment. For starters, refer to the below list of things to avoid after sclerotherapy:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., Ibuprofen or aspirin)
- Hot baths
- Direct sunlight
- Swimming pools
- Aerobic exercises
- Lifting weights
- Flying in airplanes
Is swelling after spider vein treatment normal?
Some patients experience swelling following their sclerotherapy treatment, which your doctor can help you manage. This is a less common side effect of spider vein treatment, which is due to inflammation near the injection site. Your doctor might recommend a prescription or over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce the inflammation. Always make sure you check with your doctor before taking medications following the procedure.
Is sclerotherapy dangerous? Are there any risks?
One of the more serious complications of sclerotherapy is called deep vein thrombosis (or blood clotting that moves deeper into a vein in your leg). Deep vein thrombosis can lead to another more serious and rarer complication, pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot travels from the legs to the lungs and blocks one of your vital arteries. Either of these conditions is considered an emergency situation, requiring immediate medical assistance. Seek medical help right away if you notice any of the following symptoms of deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism following sclerotherapy:
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
Can spider veins get worse after sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a non-invasive way to improve the look and feel of spider veins and varicose veins with rare side effects. However, it’s important to have realistic expectations for your results. Often, veins may look worse before they look better. Most patients notice a significant improvement after several weeks have passed and the body has had time to heal from spider vein treatment. Speak with your dermatologist, to learn more about your varicose vein treatment options in Miami.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
If you are interested in sclerotherapy, visit Kendall Dermatology at our Kendall, Florida dermatology office. We offer a comprehensive range of skincare treatments, including the latest clinical and cosmetic dermatology procedures. Our office is home to skilled dermatologists and licensed estheticians. Contact our office by calling 305.595.0393 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment anytime.