While varicose veins and spider veins can be an embarrassing or unwanted cosmetic concern, these two types of vein damage can affect much more than just the appearance of your legs. In fact, those with varicose veins and spider veins may suffer from significant, long-term discomfort and pain, not to mention a higher risk of complications that include blood clots, bleeding, ulcers, and open sores.
If you have varicose veins or spider veins and your condition is not responding adequately to lifestyle changes or self-care treatments, sclerotherapy may be an option to help you look and feel better. Sclerotherapy is a well-proven procedure with 85% effectiveness.
The Texas podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists understand that varicose veins can cause daily discomfort and long-term health issues. We also know that sclerotherapy is the preferred treatment for them. This minimally-invasive procedure can help, especially when simple solutions such as exercise, elevation, and compression socks aren’t enough.
The Problem of Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Varicose veins and spider veins are quite common. About 20% of people have varicose veins, while most people have at least one spider vein (a smaller, milder form of varicose veins) somewhere on their body.
Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins located near the surface of the skin created by faulty vein valves that cause blood to pool or flow backward. These veins may appear purple, reddish, or blue and sometimes can bulge out of the skin. While they may be located anywhere, most varicose veins appear on the legs and lower extremities.
Varicose veins are more common if you have a family history, if you become pregnant, or if you sit or stand for long periods of time. They may also become more prevalent with age.
Common Treatment for Varicose and Spider Veins
Some varicose veins and spider veins can be treated with lifestyle changes and self-care, including:
- Moving your body regularly throughout the day
- Elevating your feet and legs while sitting
- Making changes to your diet
- Avoiding high-heeled shoes
- Wearing compression socks
However, in some cases, more serious medical intervention is required. This is often the case with extensive, severe varicose veins that cause daily pain such as aching, burning, throbbing, or itching.
Sclerotherapy: A Solution for Varicose and Spider Veins
The leading treatment for extensive or painful varicose veins is a minimally-invasive procedure called sclerotherapy. During sclerotherapy, a podiatrist uses a needle to inject a solution into the varicose or spider veins, causing the veins to scar and close. This then forces your blood through healthier veins in your legs, while the varicose veins empty of blood and fade from view.
Sclerotherapy treats both the appearance of varicose veins and any pain and discomfort that they cause.
The Sclerotherapy Treatment Process
Sclerotherapy is generally well-tolerated by most patients, and the entire process typically takes less time than your lunch break. Here's what you can expect from the procedure:
Before receiving sclerotherapy, our patients have a thorough consultation with our podiatrists. During this consultation, our team will assess the extent and severity of the damaged veins, discuss your medical history, and answer any questions or concerns that you may have. This initial assessment is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment plan. If you are a good candidate for sclerotherapy, we move on to the procedure itself.
- Preparing for sclerotherapy. Patients are advised to wear loose-fitting clothing and to avoid applying lotion or moisturizer to the legs on the day of the procedure.
- The use of local anesthesia. In most cases, sclerotherapy is performed as an outpatient procedure without the need for general anesthesia. We apply a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area.
- The procedure: injections. A special sclerosing solution is injected directly into the affected vein using a fine needle. This solution irritates the vein lining, causing it to collapse and seal shut. The number of injections required depends on the size and location of the treated veins.
- After the procedure. After the injections, compression bandages or stockings are used on the treated leg. These help compress the veins and prevent blood from re-entering the treated vessel. Patients are usually required to wear compression garments for a specified duration after the procedure to support healing and reduce the risk of complications.
Recovery and Aftercare
Recovery from sclerotherapy is typically straightforward, but it's essential to follow your podiatrist's instructions to ensure the best results.
Patients are advised to wear compression stockings for a specified duration, often a few weeks, to aid in recovery and improve long-term results. Patients are encouraged to walk and engage in light activities to promote circulation and help the healing process.
Direct sun exposure or use of tanning beds should be avoided for a few weeks after the procedure, as it can lead to hyperpigmentation at the treatment sites. This is easily accomplished by wearing compression socks and pants.
While light activities such as walking are encouraged to stimulate blood circulation, strenuous exercise and contact sports should be avoided for a short period.
In the weeks after your procedure, you will need to schedule follow-up appointments with your podiatrist to monitor your progress and address any concerns or complications.
The results of sclerotherapy are not entirely immediate but become more apparent over time. In many cases, patients notice an immediate improvement in the appearance of their veins as the treated vessels collapse. However, it may take several weeks or even a few months to see the full benefits of sclerotherapy. Treated veins will gradually fade and become less visible.
While sclerotherapy can significantly and permanently improve the appearance and symptoms of treated veins, it’s important to understand that the procedure does not guarantee that new varicose veins won't develop in the future.
Sclerotherapy Frequently Asked Questions
A common question we get asked about sclerotherapy is if the procedure is painful. The injection of the sclerosing solution may cause a mild stinging or burning sensation, but this discomfort is usually brief and well-tolerated, especially when paired with local anesthesia. If you are familiar with the feeling of needles and injections, you are familiar with the level of discomfort you may feel. You can ask your doctor about how many injections your procedure may involve.
How Long Does the Procedure Last?
The length of the procedure depends on how significant your varicose veins are, but most procedures will be over in less than an hour.
Does Insurance Cover Sclerotherapy?
As always, whether you are covered by your health plan depends on your insurance company as well as what is outlined in your individual policy. However, generally speaking, if your varicose veins or spider veins are causing pain and discomfort, you may be covered. If you are eliminating veins for cosmetic reasons only, your procedure may not be covered.
Will I Require Multiple Sclerotherapy Sessions?
While the answer to this question varies, many patients require two to four sessions to resolve their varicose vein issues.
What Are the Potential Side Effects of Sclerotherapy?
Common side effects include bruising, redness, and mild discomfort at the injection sites. Other complications include allergic reactions, skin discoloration, and inflammation. Most of these side effects typically resolve on their own, but report any side effects to your podiatrist immediately.