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Sclerotherapy

What are varicose veins and spider veins?

Varicose veins are large, raised, swollen blood vessels. They usually develop in the legs and can be seen through the skin. Spider veins are smaller, red, purple, and blue vessels. Spider veins are easily visible through the skin as well. They are typically found on the legs.

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Several factors predispose a person to developing varicose veins or spider veins, including:

  • Heredity
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal fluctuations caused by pregnancy, puberty or menopause
  • The use of birth control pills
  • Postmenopausal hormone replacement
  • Occupations that involve a lot of standing, such as nurses, hair stylists, teachers and factory workers
  • Other reported causes include trauma or injury to the skin, previous vein surgery and exposure to ultraviolet rays.

Other reported causes include trauma or injury to the skin, previous vein surgery and exposure to ultraviolet rays.

What is sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used to treat varicose veins and spider veins. The problem vein is injected with a chemical which causes the blood vessel to close up and eventually disappear. This treatment is performed in a short office visit and is often painless. Sclerotherapy is a well-proven procedure that has been used since the 1930s.

Are you a candidate for sclerotherapy?

Prior to sclerotherapy, you will have an initial consultation with a vascular specialist who will decide if you are a good candidate for the procedure. You are not eligible if you are pregnant. If you have had a blood clot in the past, your eligibility will depend on the overall health of the area of your body that needs treatment, as well as the reason for the blood clot. Your eligibility for sclerotherapy will be decided on an individual basis. Veins that are potentially usable for future heart bypass surgery will generally not be considered for sclerotherapy, unless they are already deemed unusable.

How It Works

Using a very fine needle, your doctor will inject a "sclerosing" chemical into the dilated blood vessel. The chemical causes inflammation, which forces the walls of the vessel to swell and fuse together. As a result, the injected vessel no longer has the capability to hold blood. It contracts, and eventually disappears.

Preparing for Sclerotherapy

Prior to sclerotherapy, you should avoid certain medications. Talk to your doctor about all medicines (including over-the-counter drugs, herbs and dietary supplements) you are taking. If you need to take an antibiotic before sclerotherapy, contact your doctor. No lotion should be applied to the legs before the procedure for at least 24 hours.

Some doctors recommend avoiding aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil, Motrin and Nuprin) or other anti-inflammatory drugs for 48-72 hours before sclerotherapy. Tylenol, however, should not affect this procedure.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Your doctor may perform a few injections to test your response to the chemical. Based on your response, the chemical amount may have to be adjusted to fit your body. You may have more than one session of sclerotherapy for different areas of the leg. Several veins can be treated in a single session. In most cases, there is mild pain during treatment, and some patients have reported a slight burning or stinging sensation that is brief.

What Happens After Sclerotherapy

After sclerotherapy, you will be able to drive yourself home and resume your regular daily activities. Walking is encouraged. You will be instructed to wear support hosiery to "compress" the treated vessels. If you have compression hosiery from previous treatments, you are encouraged to bring them with you to be certain they still provide adequate compression. Department store stockings will not be adequate if a heavy compression stocking is needed. Your doctor's office can recommend where to purchase heavy compression stockings.

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Following the injections, avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory drugs for at least 48 hours. Tylenol may be used if needed. You may see slight bruising. Some helpful tips to keep in mind during recovery:

  • Wear compression stockings or bandages as directed
  • Elevate your legs as directed
  • Walk each day
  • Avoid high-impact activities and sports
  • Avoid hot baths, saunas, whirlpools, and other hot environments as advised by your doctor
  • Protect the treated area from sun exposure
  • Avoid immediate air travel
  • Follow any special instructions from your doctor

Effectiveness of Sclerotherapy

Studies have shown that as many as 50 percent to 80 percent of injected veins may be eliminated with each session of sclerotherapy. Less than 10 percent of people who undergo sclerotherapy do not respond to the injections at all. In these instances, there may be different solutions.

In general, spider veins respond in three to six weeks, and larger veins respond in three to four months. If the veins respond to the treatment, they will not reappear. However, new veins may appear at the same rate as before. If needed, you may return for new injections.

To make an appointment, call (607) 547-3400.

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607-547-3456 : 1-800-BASSETT (227-7388)