Sclerotherapy (pronounced sklair-oh-therapy) may be a complicated sounding word, but it’s actually a relatively straightforward, easy to understand procedure that’s been performed for nearly 80 years.
This medical treatment is used to eliminate spider veins and varicose veins, and is performed using a solution that is injected into the vein using a thin needle. This injection triggers a chain reaction that eventually helps the body to convert these unsightly veins into nearly undetectable scar tissue.
How Does Sclerotherapy Work?
When a chemical “irritant” solution — typically saline-based — is injected into the vein, it irritates the blood vessel’s lining, causing it to collapse and form a clot. The body naturally absorbs these clots and converts them into nearly undetectable scar tissue. Sclerotherapy can almost be thought of as a procedure that instigates a natural process within the body.
Who’s a Candidate for Sclerotherapy?
Anybody with unsightly varicose or spider veins may be eligible for sclerotherapy, however those interested in undergoing treatment need to meet with a dermatologist and/or vascular specialist to determine if it’s the best possible remedy for their visible veins.
Patients with a history of blood clots are still eligible, but require individual assessment to ensure safety.
What to Expect Before, During and After Treatment
If you’ve been approved for a sclerotherapy appointment, make sure you talk with your doctor about any medications or over the counter formulations to avoid. The most notable are blood thinners, such as aspirin, iburofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs, which you must stop taking 3 full days before your office visit. Make sure not to shave or use any skin care products on the region the day of your treatment.
Sclerotherapy must be performed at a doctor’s office, but it’s an outpatient procedure that takes less than half an hour, depending on how many veins are being treated.
The procedure is relatively painless, though some experience mild cramping at the injection site for several minutes after the injection.
Post-treatment, professionals recommend taking it easy for a few days and wearing compression stockings on the area, which supports more rapid healing. Cardio-based exercise should be avoided for up to five days following the procedure, and it’s also advised that sclerotherapy patients avoid direct sunlight, heated compresses, and hot showers, baths or Jacuzzis for at least a few days.
Raised red areas or bruising may appear at the injection site in the days following the procedure — this is normal, and will disappear.
It’s most important to note that the effects of sclerotherapy are not instant or immediate. In fact, it can take weeks or months for veins to fade entirely. The average is between 3 and 6 weeks, but in some instances, especially for larger veins, the area may harden first and take up to four months to entirely disappear. Some patients see lines or spots develop where the vein once was — this usually fades within six months.
Does Sclerotherapy Really Work?
Yes — sclerotherapy has a success rate between 60% and 80%, but multiple treatments may be necessary to make veins disappear altogether.
Costs for treatment will vary, and not all insurance carriers will cover the procedure. When medical issues are caused by the swollen veins, it will most likely be deemed necessary, but few can obtain the treatment for cosmetic reasons alone. Average costs vary, but typically begin at roughly $150.
The Bottom Line
A longtime remedy for unsightly and uncomfortable spider veins and varicose veins, sclerotherapy is effective, safe and affordable, but those undergoing the treatment must be patient, as it can take several months for veins to disappear entirely.