Varicose veins, including spider veins, affect up to 50 percent of the adult population according to MedicineNet. Luckily, spider veins can be treated with a minor procedure called sclerotherapy.
It’s a common misconception only older people suffer from spider veins. Individuals of all ages can actually develop spider veins. Though they are more common in women, men can develop them as well.
Spider veins cause people to feel self-conscious and can at times be painful. Many people decide to seek treatment when spider veins begin to affect their daily lives.
For years, Gwyn, a recent patient of Aubrey Harman, APRN, at Vascular Specialists of Central Florida, noticed she had black and blue lines running down her legs. Spider veins are often red, black, blue, or purple in color and are usually found on the lower legs. “It got to the point where I couldn’t wear shorts or capris, because it was embarrassing. So I did an internet search to find ways to remedy it, and found Vascular Specialist of Central Florida,” says Gwyn. After a consultation with her practitioner, Gwyn decided sclerotherapy was the right call for her.
Sclerotherapy is considered the treatment of choice for spider veins of the legs, because the procedure is minimally invasive and has a high success rate.
After Gwyn’s treatment, she is now comfortable with wearing capris and shorts again. She says she has shown her friends the results since her procedure, and even the before and after pictures of her legs.
What is Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is the procedure to treat unwanted small vessels, called spider veins, usually found on the legs and thighs. Your healthcare provider will inject a solution directly into the vein using a very small needle. This sclerosing substance causes the vein to scar and collapse. The collapsed vein is then reabsorbed into local tissue, causing it to turn white and gradually disappear.
The average consultation lasts approximately 15 minutes. During this time you will be asked questions about your history and examined.
What Happens During a Sclerotherapy Procedure?
The procedure will take place in an exam room. Generally, you are able to sit up or recline, whichever you prefer. Your practitioner will cleanse the area to be treated. The solution will be inserted into the targeted vein, using a very fine needle. You may experience some minor stinging when the needle is inserted into the vein. Be sure to tell your practitioner if you have any discomfort. After the injections your practitioner will apply compression and massage the area. This will keep blood out of the injected vein and help to disperse the solution.
“You would think I would be the last person to do this because I’m afraid of needles. I don’t like needles, if it has to do with a shot I will do anything I can to avoid it,” says Gwyn. “So for me to do this, I was desperate. The needle was a non-issue, especially after the first prick.”
The number of injections depends on the number and size of veins being treated, and the strength of the injection (sclerosants) may be different as well. Depending on its size, a single vein may have to be injected more than once. Multiple veins may be injected during one treatment session. While some clients may be satisfied after just one treatment, two or more treatments may be needed to achieve desired results. Typically the sessions are about a month apart.
Generally, spider veins will respond to treatment in about four weeks. Sclerotherapy works well for most patients. Less than 10 percent of the people who have sclerotherapy do not respond to injections at all. In this case, a different type of injectable (sclerosants) may be used or a different form of treatment may be tried.
Who Is a Candidate for Sclerotherapy?
Prior to sclerotherapy, you will have an initial consultation and personal exam with a vascular specialist to determine if the procedure is right for you. There are a number of factors that go into determining if sclerotherapy is the best treatment for you. Everyone is different and have their own desired outcomes and severity of condition. Patients are considered good candidates when they match the following criteria:
- In good overall health
- Realistic about expectations
- Comfortable following pre- and post-operative care instructions
Expectations After Sclerotherapy Treatment
Sclerotherapy is considered an outpatient procedure, meaning you can leave the office the same day of the treatment. You will be able to walk immediately after treatment. After the first day or two following treatment, you may experience some bruising and tenderness. This discomfort is only temporary, and usually medication is not needed.
We recommend you wear prescription strength compression stockings (15-20 mmHg or 20-30 mmHg) after the procedure. The stockings should be worn on the treated area for at least 72 hours after the procedure. After three days, you should wear them every day for the next two to three weeks. Wearing prescription strength stockings has been shown to enhance the cosmetic result.
“Anytime you do a procedure, you’re nervous about what you’re going to expect, but the staff was really sweet and professional and Aubrey was very comforting,” says Gwyn. “Everyone was very friendly, making the experience more relaxed. It has been a pleasure,” says Gwyn.
Results of Vascular Sclerotherapy
As with any procedure, the results will vary for each patient. Many patients often see a noticeable improvement with the external appearance of the legs and relief of aching or other symptoms associated with spider veins, after the very first treatment.
Studies have shown that as many as 50-80 percent of injected veins may be eliminated with each session of sclerotherapy. It is common for complete elimination of spider veins to require three to four sclerotherapy treatments. Although this procedure works for most patients, there are no guarantees for success.
“I can wear capris and shorts again without being embarrassed. I show everybody and anybody my legs. I ask them, ‘Don’t my legs look nice?’ I’ll bring out the old pictures of my legs to show them how they use to look,” says Gwyn with a smile. “Sometimes, just for fun, I’ll bring out the before and after pictures.”
If spider veins are causing you discomfort or are making you feel self-conscious schedule an appointment with your practitioner now. Sclerotherapy could be the treatment for you.