What is sclerotherapy vein reduction?
An alternative to surgically removing (“stripping”) veins, sclerotherapy is the new standard of treatment for both varicose and spider veins. The procedure involves injecting a special solution through a tiny needle into the vein, which then collapses and is absorbed by the body. Treatments involve one or more injections during one or more sessions, depending on the type, number and severity of the veins being treated. By the end of the treatment program, the veins are no longer visible on the skin surface. Sclerotherapy usually also relieves symptoms associated with enlarged veins and prevents further complications from occurring.
For those of us with varicose veins, or other damaged and broken blood vessels, these tiny red lines can make us self-conscious about showing off our legs, face and other affected areas of the body. Sclerotherapy quickly and painlessly rids individuals of these unsightly, damaged blood vessels and leaves the skin looking even and free from redness.
How does it work?
Sclerotherapy is a fairly quick procedure. Doctors use a thin syringe to inject medicine into a patient’s damaged blood vessels, which causes these veins to shrink and dissipates the trapped blood that causes redness and string-like marks, as seen in individuals with varicose veins. There are several types of sclerotherapy, but the three most popular types are: basic sclerotherapy, foam sclerotherapy and ultrasound guided sclerotherapy. In the basic procedure the doctor simply injects a medicine into damaged veins, most commonly sodium tetradecyl sulfate (STS) and the broken blood vessels collapse as the trapped blood and redness around the veins dissipates. Foam sclerotherapy involves mixing the sodium tetradecyl sulfate with a gas, such as carbon dioxide, to aerate the solution causing it to thicken and spread further in the vein. The thickness of the mixture displaces all blood from the broken vein and prevents spider veins, or varicose veins from reappearing. The third most popular method of sclerotherapy, ultrasound guided sclerotherapy, is for individuals with widespread or deep vein damage. In this procedure the technician uses ultrasound technology to guide the injection and visualize hard to reach blood vessels. After all sclerotherapy therapies the treated areas is then heavily bandaged and compressed, and patients are encouraged to move around and walk regularly to help keep blood flowing in the treated area. Oftentimes, after the procedure a follow up ultrasound will be conducted to insure that the treated veins were properly closed up and treated.
On average, one to three sessions are required, spaced 2 – 4 weeks apart. After each session, patients may have to wear bandages or support hose for a few days or weeks and are encouraged to walk or exercise to speed recovery. The procedure is office-based. Bruising and swelling (if present) should fade within a week or two. Sclerotherapy rarely produces more severe side effects such as scarring, although it cannot prevent the recurrence of vascular lesions.
Unlike laser treatments for damaged veins, sclerotherapy blocks the ‘feeder veins’ that lead blood to the area of spider veins or varicose veins. This greatly increases the chance that the treatment will be permanent and these issues will not occur in the treated areas again. Sclerotherapy can be used to treat all sizes, spread and locations of damaged blood vessels. Since the injection used in sclerotherapy is so precise there is little chance of damaging surrounding tissues and in many cases no visible scars will be left behind from the procedure.