In general, sclerotherapy is most commonly used for small varicose veins; while spider veins, smaller with visible branches, are treated with laser therapy. Many patients have both types of vein problems and will receive both types of treatment, although not necessarily on the same visit. Since smaller varicose veins can be effectively eliminated with either method, there is no rule that applies in all cases. Upon examining you, your vein doctor will recommend the best treatment plan. Here are some factors that vascular surgeons will consider when deciding whether to recommend sclerotherapy vs. laser vein treatment.
What is Sclerotherapy, and How Does it Differ from Laser Ablation?
Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive, non-surgical treatment where a diseased vein is destroyed with an injection of a sclerosing substance (liquid or foam chemical) designed to irritate the vein. This collapses the vein, and the body absorbs the non-functional tissue. Laser vein treatment uses a directed beam of light to collapse and destroy the vein, causing a sensation somewhat like a rubber band snapping against the skin. Both methods have minimal side effects, including bruising, redness, and swelling.
How Will My Vein Doctor Decide Which Method to Use?
When treating veins that will respond well to either treatment, your vein doctor might choose sclerotherapy if you find the snapping of the laser irritating. On the other hand, if you don’t like needles (although only hair-thin needles are used) or are allergic to the sclerosing chemical, your doctor may recommend laser vein treatment. In some cases, individuals don’t like needles to be used in the face, so spider veins are often treated with a laser. However, sclerotherapy may be preferred in those with darker skin tones since certain laser treatments can cause color changes in the treated area. Sclerotherapy also excels at reaching the less-visible branches feeding a varicose vein, branches a laser may miss. For deeper veins, another laser treatment, called EVLT, may be used, where a tiny laser probe is inserted into the vein to destroy it.
No matter the extent of your vein disease, you can count on your vein doctor to choose the most effective and comfortable treatment. The treatment that is best for you may differ from that of someone else with the same vein problems. That’s why it is important to choose an experienced vein specialist at your local vein clinic for medical advice that considers your condition and unique individual needs. Contact the NJ Vein & Vascular Institute to learn about your minimally-invasive vein treatment options.