If you’ve been diagnosed with varicose veins, there are several treatment options that may be available to you. There’s traditional vein stripping, which requires a hospital stay and general anesthetic, in which veins are physically removed through surgery.
There’s laser therapy and radiofrequency, which are both methods that use heat to cut off blood flow through damaged veins so they can be reabsorbed into the body and blood flow directed through healthy veins.
And there’s sclerotherapy, which is another method of closing off veins but one that uses an injection of medication rather than heat.
Your doctor will help you choose the best treatment for you but it helps to be armed with information so you can ask good questions and understand what to expect.
Sclerotherapy is a non-invasive treatment for varicose veins that uses an injection of medication to seal off damaged blood vessels. Your should not even need a local anesthetic for the procedure. Some doctors use a saline solution to achieve a similar effect, but medications have been shown to be more effective.
The medication works by irritating the lining of the vein so that it swells and sticks together, effectively closing itself off. Then blood is naturally rerouted through normal veins and the damaged vein is reabsorbed into your body. It’s a straightforward and fast procedure that can be done right in your doctor’s office.
Very little preparation is needed for sclerotherapy. There’s no need to fast, and you can continue your regular routines and activities right up until you’re ready for treatment.
You can even continue taking your regular medications, even blood thinners or aspirin. It’s always a good idea to let your doctor know about any medications you’re taking, in case there are any exceptions.
Otherwise, you’ll want to wear loose, comfortable clothing on the day of your visit – then sit back and let your doctor get to work. Afterwards you’ll even be able to drive yourself home.
Since sclerotherapy works by injection, there’s no need for incisions or anesthetics. Some people experience cramping or a mild burning sensation in the area of the vein being treated but an experienced doctor will be able to minimize your discomfort.
If your veins are especially small and thin, your doctor may perform an ultrasound to help guide the injections.
The procedure may require several injections but don’t worry, it’s quick – you should be done and ready to get back to your daily routine in 15 to 30 minutes. All told, you’ll be in and out of your doctor’s office in under an hour and still have time for lunch.
If this is your first treatment and you’re feeling anxious about recovery – don’t be. You’ll be able to get back to your regular activities immediately, though your doctor may advise against strenuous activity for a few days. The only down side is that you won’t have a good reason to quit work early, but if you’re lucky you may get the kids to behave themselves for an extra five minutes if you play it up!
Your doctor will also ask you to wear compression stockings for a short period following your treatment. Let’s face it: nobody loves them, but they’re great at what they do, which is keeping the veins compressed so the results of your treatment will be more effective.
Over 90% of people who are treated with sclerotherapy respond well. If you’re in the minority and don’t get ideal results, your doctor will likely try another treatment option.
The majority of varicose veins can usually be treated in a single session, but additional treatments may be required. Your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment with you in a few weeks to determine whether another treatment is needed.
As for visual improvement, the results take a little longer to notice than they might with laser therapy or radiofrequency, but you should begin to see some improvements within a week and definitive improvements over the next several weeks following your treatment.
All medical procedures have some inherent risk. In fact, everything in life comes with risk, even sitting in a chair and reading this! The good news is that risks associated with sclerotherapy are rare and uncommon. They may include allergic reaction to the medication, infection or blood clots.
You may experience temporary side effects like discoloration of the skin near the vein but that typically goes away in a few weeks. You may also experience some bruising or redness, but you should not feel discomfort or pain. If you do feel any discomfort you can take an over the counter painkiller.
As with any choice, you want to make the best one you possibly can. Armed with a bit of knowledge, you have the ammunition you need to start asking questions so you can decide whether your doctor has the experience and know-how to care for you and even the personality to make you comfortable.
Ask your doctor how long he’s been performing sclerotherapy and what his success rate is. Even though you may have read about it here or elsewhere, ask about the treatment, the side effects and what to expect. If you’re confused about an answer, ask your doctor to explain. A good answer is only good if you understand how it impacts you. And a good doctor will be sure to help you understand, to set realistic expectations and to put you at ease.