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M. David Cole, M.D., F.A.A.D., discusses Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery

Everything You Need to Know about Sclerotherapy

legs-434918_960_720Varicose veins, and the similar but small spider veins, are enlarged veins, which appear on the surface of the skin, typically on various parts of the leg. Varicose veins are caused by weak valves which fail to pump blood back to the heart and, instead, collect in the leg. Varicose are spider veins affect around 30% of adults in the U.S., and they are not only unsightly, they can be painful, uncomfortable, and a gateway to more serious health problems down the line.


Since the 1930s, sclerotherapy has been used to addressed this issue. Sclerotherapy is a procedure involving injecting a salt solution into the affected area, to eliminate varicose and spider veins. The solution irritates the veins lining, causing it to collapse and stick together as the blood clots. This simple procedure takes approximately 15-30 minutes, depending on the number of problem areas and how close they are to one another. As the area heals, the vessel becomes scar tissue and eventually fades away.


Is Sclerotherapy for Me?

That depends. Most non-pregnant adults will be eligible to undergo the procedure. However, a doctor may take special precautions if you’ve had a history blood clots. To find out whether or not you’re a good candidate for sclerotherapy, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or a doctor who specializes in vascular medicine.


Does it Work?

Approximately 90% of patients who’ve had sclerotherapy respond to treatment. Furthermore, 50%-80% of veins are eliminated with each session. So there is proof that the procedure works, but it is not a guarantee that sclerotherapy will be successful for every patient. Once completed, spider veins take as little as three weeks to respond, and varicose veins in about three months.


Are There Side Effects?

Yes there are possible side effects of which you should be aware. Some are mild, such as itching or bruising at the injection site. Others may be a bit more irritating, like neovascularization which is defined as the development of new, tiny veins, or brown spots at the vein site. Yet each of these heal over time. For more serious side effects like swelling or ulcers, speak with a doctor immediately.