Sclerotherapy has become more popular in recent years to eliminate varicose veins and spider veins compared to some other methods. It has become a minimally invasive choice but involves an injection of a solution directly into the vein. Consequently, the solution irritates the lining of the blood vessel, causing it to collapse and stick together and the blood to clot, turning the vessels into scar tissue that fades from view over time.
Moreover, sclerotherapy is a proven procedure that has been in use since the 1930s. It is an in-office procedure that addresses the abnormal accumulation of fluids in tissues or venous swelling. The purpose of sclerotherapy is to scar the inner lining of a problematic vein so that the body eventually reabsorbs it.
How Does Sclerotherapy Work?
Sclerotherapy injects solution (salt solution) through a very fine needle directly into the vein. At this point, a patient might experience mild discomfort and cramping for about a minute or two, most especially when injected into larger veins. Typically, the procedure itself takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes.
In one session, the number of veins injected depends on the size and location of the veins and the patient’s general medical condition. Keep in mind that sclerotherapy is a delicate procedure that can cause permanent scarring when it’s not administered by a highly skilled and experienced dermatologist.
What Are The Benefits Of Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is effective for the cosmetic treatment of spider veins and the symptomatic treatment of small varicose veins. It is successful at least 80% of the time. It usually takes several weeks for the veins to fade, but it can take up to a year in some cases.
In addition, there are other uses of sclerotherapy that helps treat the following:
- Hemorrhoids: Sclerotherapy is used by doctors to shrink grade 1 or 2 hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are formed when blood vessels surrounding the rectum swell and become irritated, causing pain and uncomfortable bowel movements.
- Malformed lymph vessels: When the lymphatic system has abnormal vessels, sclerotherapy can help create scarring in the malformed vessels, causing them to collapse.
- Hydroceles: A collection of fluid around a testicle, which sclerotherapy can treat, mainly when surgery is unsuitable.
Who Are Good Candidates Of Sclerotherapy?
Before the procedure, the initial consultation will be decided by a dermatologist or vascular medicine specialist for the patient to be a good candidate for the sclerotherapy procedure. On the other hand, sclerotherapy is not an option for everyone and are not suggested to those individuals who are:
- Are pregnant
- Have had a baby within the last 3 months
- Are breastfeeding
- Are immobile and do not get out of bed
- Have large varicose veins
- Have a blood clot or a history of blood clots
What to Expect During The Procedure?
Before the sclerotherapy session, do not shave or apply lotion, moisturizer, oil, or ointment of any sort to the treated area in the morning.
Before The Treatment
After checking in and having signed the necessary consent forms, patients will be led to a treatment room to change out of their clothes, if needed. When undergoing sclerotherapy for cosmetic purposes, photographs may be taken for before-and-after comparisons during follow-up visits.
During The Treatment
To start the procedure, patients will be positioned on an examination table to best access the treatment area by the healthcare provider. If the treated area is the legs, patients will lie on their back with their legs elevated slightly, with pillows and bolsters provided.
To be followed by cleansing the treatment area with alcohol or other antiseptic solution. The dermatologist will then inject the solution into a vein with a very fine needle (usually between 30 and 33 gauge). Needles this small should be painless, but the patient might still feel discomfort with the process.
A massage will follow surrounding tissue to help disperse the solution along the vein route. In addition, liquid sclerosing solutions are used to treat smaller veins, while larger ones may require a foam sclerosant that has the same effect but requires smaller doses than what would be needed with a liquid formulation. Note that multiple injections might be required for some veins per session.
As indicated, sclerotherapy sessions take between 15 and 45 minutes, depending on how extensive the treatment area is. If the treated area is small, one appointment is only required. Unless the provider needs more sessions, they will usually leave several weeks between treatments to allow proper healing.
After The Treatment
Once completed, the patients can change their clothes and immediately put on their compression socks or stockings. Reports say that most people do not feel any pain or discomfort.
What Are The Possible Side Effects & Complications Of Sclerotherapy?
Like any other medical procedure, possible risks should be considered carefully before implementing a particular treatment. Sclerotherapy is used to treat cosmetic problems frequently; hence untoward and dangerous side effects should be fully explained to the patient.
In some patients treated with sclerotherapy, a dark discoloration of the injected area may occur (hyperpigmentation). This usually happens because of the disintegration of the red blood cells in the treated blood vessel, but this discoloration will completely go away within 6 months in most cases.
In some patients, a formation of new spider veins near the area is treated with sclerotherapy may happen, but these new vessels typically disappear within 6 months. There are only rare complications that may include, such as the formation of an ulcer around the injection site or the appearance of small blood clots in the small surface veins (superficial thrombophlebitis).
What Are The Aftercare Instructions To Follow After The Sclerotherapy Procedure?
Since sclerotherapy is an outpatient procedure, there is no recovery time, and patients can leave the office on the same day and continue with their daily routines. Also, it is a must to wear compression dressings for one to three weeks after treatment. Within two weeks, a follow-up visit is recommended to enable the blood clots in larger veins to improve the prognosis and the appearance.
In addition, there are other important reminders to follow post-treatment:
- Avoid taking hot baths or sitting in a hot tub or sauna. Instead, take shorter and cooler showers than usual.
- Avoid using heated pads or any form of heat to the injection sites, promoting inflammation and bleeding.
- Remember to walk at least 30 minutes a day at a slow to moderate pace for the first two weeks.
- Do not lift heavy objects or avoid strenuous exercise for the first two weeks.
- Avoid direct sunlight or suntan beds as this can lead to hyperpigmentation.
Sclerotherapy is usually a minor, non-invasive procedure to treat varicose veins or hemorrhoids. It is essential to discuss the benefits and risks of sclerotherapy with a doctor, and possible coverage with an insurer, before making a decision. Enhance Medical Aesthetics is a space for you to find personalized treatments to improve symptoms, appearance, or size of venous and lymphatic malformations.