For patients with a family history of varicose or spider veins, the appearance of these abnormal vessels is sometimes a familiar cosmetic annoyance or medical problem. These veins most frequently appear on the leg, foot, or ankle but can also develop on the face and other parts of the body. For spider veins, sclerotherapy treatment is the most common method that vein doctors recommend. Doctors also use it to treat some varicose veins.
How Sclerotherapy Treatment Works
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, this is the oldest and the most frequent treatment vascular surgeons use for spider veins that develop on a patient’s legs. It is most often performed at an outpatient vein clinic. While this spider and varicose vein treatment eliminates targeted vessels, it can’t prevent new ones from developing. Because of this, some patients schedule periodic sessions.
Many people believe that spider veins are a type of varicose veins. They’re actually smaller and closer to the surface of the skin than varicose vessels are, the University of Maryland Medical System indicates.
Vein doctors destroy vessels by using a tiny needle to inject a chemical known as a sclerosing agent or a sclerosant. This substance has been specially manufactured as a liquid or a foam to irritate a vein and cause it to scar. Eventually, the vessel’s walls collapse. Then the vein closes, leaving nearby blood vessels to handle blood flow. Targeted veins eventually resorb and disappear to the eye.
This type of treatment is most appropriate for spider veins or small varicose veins relatively close to the skin’s surface. For deeper varicose veins, surgeons use ultrasound to identify the location of vessels that need treatment and to guide the injected sclerosant. They sometimes use it in addition to other procedures such as endovenous laser ablation.
What Patients Should Expect
Prior to injection of the sclerosing agent, patients lie on their backs with their legs raised slightly. After cleansing the area to be treated, the vascular surgeon injects the sclerosant.
The physician applies compression after withdrawing the needle, then massages the area in order to disperse the sclerosant and prevent blood from entering the targeted vein. The Mayo Clinic reports that wearing compression stockings for several weeks after this non-invasive procedure is standard.
Most patients report at most only minor discomfort. They go home the same day and pick up their normal daily routines. If they experience side effects, the symptoms are temporary and typically include bruising, red and raised areas, small skin sores, darkened skin, or very small red vessels that appear as multiples.
The most common side effects that might require medical treatment include:
- Blood clot
- Allergic reaction to the sclerosant
- Air bubbles in the blood
In some cases, patients require several consecutive treatments to eliminate all problem veins.