When it comes to treating spider veins and small varicose veins, doctors consider sclerotherapy the gold standard of care. The injections are particularly effective for eliminating leg veins. Understanding what to expect from this vein treatment helps reduce the stress associated with a patient’s first session.
What This Procedure Involves
Vein doctors perform this treatment for both cosmetic and medical reasons. These specialists are also called vascular surgeons.
After a physician approves a patient for this procedure, the doctor might order ultrasound imaging, particularly when leg veins are involved. The Mayo Clinic recommends wearing clothing that is both loose and comfortable for the injections and not applying lotion for 24 hours beforehand.
This outpatient treatment is considered noninvasive and usually takes less than an hour. Patients lie on their backs with legs elevated. The vein clinic staff first cleanses the targeted area.
Using a very fine needle, the vein doctor injects a special solution or foam known as a sclerosing agent or sclerosant into the appropriate vessel. Some agents contain lidocaine, a local anesthetic. The sclerosant irritates the vein’s lining, causing it to swell shut. Neighboring healthy veins take over circulatory duties, and the body eventually absorbs the eliminated vessel.
Some patients report cramping or minor stinging with needle insertion. The physician applies pressure after withdrawing the needle and massages the affected area to disperse the sclerosant. The number of injections used varies with the size and the number of selected veins to be treated during a session.
After the procedure, patients need to get up and walk to prevent blood clots from forming. They usually wear compression stockings for around two weeks after a session. Although they need someone to drive them home, most resume their normal daily schedule right away, absent strenuous exercise until approved by the physician.
Avoiding the sun is important after this procedure, since exposure of treated areas can result in the appearance of dark spots on the skin. UCLA Health indicates that some individuals report leg cramping for a day or two after a session. Any obvious bruising diminishes within a month.
Results from This Vein Treatment
According to the Cleveland Clinic, this type of vascular treatment eliminates between 50 and 80 percent of targeted veins during a session. Fewer than 10 percent of patients fail to respond to the procedure and might opt to try a different type of treatment, such as laser therapy.
Most spider veins respond within three to six weeks. Larger veins might take up to four months.
It is important to note that no treatment will prevent new veins from forming, although individuals can reduce their risk with lifestyle changes such as losing weight or avoiding extended periods of sitting or standing. Many patients return to a vein clinic periodically for additional sessions to eliminate new veins.