07 Sep, 2021

What Is Sclerotherapy, and Is It an Effective Treatment for Spider Veins?

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Spider vein removal may not be deemed a necessary medical procedure — but any woman living with spider veins would surely appreciate being able to get rid of them. While categorized as a cosmetic procedure, to those affected, spider veins can feel much more than simply cosmetic.

At Medicus Vein Care, we understand the toll spider veins can take on your confidence and daily life. We also acknowledge that while they’re considered cosmetic, sometimes there are negative physiological impacts associated with spider veins. That’s why they need to be treated.

When you’re ready to do something about spider veins, you’ll find that the most common treatment option is sclerotherapy. While there are a few other methods available, sclerotherapy for spider veins remains the most popular choice.

What Is Sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy effectively closes off the impacted vein or veins and allows the blood to be rerouted to healthier veins.  It is a standard procedure, but you should still familiarize yourself with the steps of the process.‌

Here are the benefits of sclerotherapy:

  • Sclerotherapy is typically performed right in your doctor’s office.
  • It’s a minimally invasive procedure with no anesthesia.
  • Sclerotherapy is a quick procedure, typically complete in under one hour.
  • After the procedure, you can return to daily life with mild exercise/strenuous restrictions.
  • The side effects are minimal and temporary if any.
  • Sclerotherapy has been proven safe, effective, and time-tested since the 1920s.

Pre-procedural Steps

Since sclerotherapy is a routine and quick procedure at Medicus Vein Care, there isn’t much that goes into preparation. Your vein specialist will have evaluated the impacted veins during your initial exam as well as ensured that there is no presence of an underlying blood vessel disorder. You will also need to have reviewed your medical history with your doctor.

Your doctor needs to know what medications and supplements you have been taking, particularly if you’ve been taking:‌

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naproxen sodium (Aleve)
  • Blood-thinning medication
  • Iron supplements
  • Other herbal or natural supplements

You may be instructed by your doctor to temporarily halt taking any aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or blood thinners for an amount of time in advance of the procedure.   

There are a few additional things to review with your doctor:

  • Allergies or known reactions to antiseptics such as iodine or alcohol
  • All medical conditions including any heart condition or history of blood clots
  • Previous surgical procedures, particularly around the current sclerotherapy site

As far as personal preparation for your procedure, we recommend avoiding shaving or applying anything topical on the area being treated. You should also wear loose and comfortable clothing, preferably shorts for convenience in treating the legs.

The Sclerotherapy Procedure

Your doctor will have you lay down and elevate your legs slightly.  For each vein being treated, the doctor uses an ultra-fine needle to inject a solution directly into the vein. We use a trusted solution called a sclerosant, which is an FDA-approved Polidocanol injection.

With the needle inserted, the procedural steps are as follows: 

  • The solution instantly causes the vein to swell shut and block blood flow.
  • The injected spider vein collapses.
  • Blood flow is absorbed by healthier blood vessels.
  • The injected vessel will become scar tissue and fade.
  • Compression is applied to keep blood out of the injected vessel.
  • The area may be massaged to help disperse the solution.

The doctor then moves on and repeats the process for each vein being treated.

One of the most common questions people ask is, “Does sclerotherapy hurt?” Most patients experience minimal, if any, discomfort. Some may experience minor stinging or cramping at the site when the needle is inserted. It is not typical for additional pain to be experienced during the sclerotherapy procedure. If you experience any unexpected pain, definitely let your doctor know what pain you’re feeling and where.

Post-procedural Expectation

As we talked about before, you can walk around and get moving right after your sclerotherapy procedure. In fact, it is necessary to do so as movement helps to prevent a blood clot from forming in the legs.

You can expect some temporary redness, bruising, or itchiness for a week or two after your procedure. The injected spider veins will also become darker in color over the course of the next few weeks, but there is nothing to fear. This temporary color change, which soon fades away, is part of the healing process and shows that the sclerotherapy treatment was effective.

Also as part of the healing process, over the next two weeks or so, your doctor will instruct you to:‌

  • Avoid intense exercise or strenuous activity
  • Limit sun exposure to the treated area to prevent inflammation
  • Wear compression stockings or bandages

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Does Sclerotherapy Have Risks or Temporary Side Effects?

‌While sclerotherapy for spider veins is a quick and safe process, there are minimal risks and side effects, as with any medical procedure. These may include:

  • Pain or stinging at the injection site
  • Temporary bruising or small skin irritations
  • Swelling of the ankles or feet — compression stockings help with this
  • Inflammation — your doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory, like Advil
  • Muscle cramping

Does Sclerotherapy Need Follow-up Appointments?

‌With inserting a fine needle into each vein, it is rarely possible to eliminate all spider veins in one procedure. We recommend three to five sclerotherapy sessions to achieve the desired elimination results. Individual veins may also prove to be pesky and need to be treated more than once. We recommend at least two full weeks between sclerotherapy procedures.

On the occasion that sclerotherapy for spider veins is not 100% successful on its own, a combination of treatments can be the most effective approach to achieve the desired results. We offer two additional treatments for spider veins: a cutaneous laser treatment, and VeinWave — also known as Ohmic Thermolysis.  

Let’s find the solution that works best for you. You deserve to feel as confident and beautiful as you are.  Contact the vein specialists at Medicus at 561-624-0123 or visit us online to book a free consultation.