Varicose veins are enlarged, visible veins on the legs. They develop when the walls of your veins become weakened and bulge outwards. Varicose veins can be dark purple or blue and can make you feel self-conscious about the appearance of your legs. These bulging veins can also be painful and lead to a burning or cramping feeling in your legs. Fortunately, many treatments are available for varicose veins, including sclerotherapy. Here are four things varicose vein sufferers need to know about sclerotherapy.
1. How is sclerotherapy performed?
Sclerotherapy is a very simple procedure. Your doctor will inject polidocanol, a sclerosant, into the varicose vein that is being treated. Sclerosants are medications that destroy veins. They work by irritating the lining of your veins and causing fibrosis, also known as scar tissue. This scar tissue seals the varicose vein, and eventually the scar tissue disappears and is replaced with another type of tissue, like muscle or fat.
Multiple treatments may be required to destroy the vein. If you need multiple treatments, they will be performed every two to eight weeks until the varicose veins are gone. Your doctor will take photos of the veins before each treatment so that they can easily compare the changes in the vein's appearance between treatment sessions.
2. What is the recovery period like?
In the first few days after your treatment, you may feel pain or aching in your legs. Severe pain or swelling isn't normal and should be reported to your doctor. Your pain shouldn't get in the way of your daily activities, and you should be able to go back to work or school right away. You'll also be able to exercise after your treatment. At first, you should walk for at least 30 minutes a day to help prevent blood clots from developing within your legs. If you're an athlete and usually do more intense exercise, it's fine to continue your regular workouts; vigorous exercise won't harm your recovery.
For the first week after your treatment, you'll need to wear compression stockings. Compression stockings are tight stockings—available with your doctor's prescription—that cover your feet and lower legs. They help to improve the blood flow in your legs.
3. What complications can sclerotherapy cause?
Sclerotherapy can lead to minor complications. After your treatment, you may notice some bruising in the areas where the injections were given. This occurs because blood is trapped within the treated veins, but the bruising will fade within a few weeks. You may also notice raised, red bumps at the injection sites, but these bumps will go away within only a few hours.
4. How effective is sclerotherapy?
Studies have indicated that sclerotherapy is very effective for the treatment of varicose veins. One Chinese study treated 285 patients with either sclerotherapy or a placebo to determine how well both treatments worked. The sclerotherapy patients were injected with solutions of 0.5%, 1% or 3% polidocanol, depending on the severity of their varicose veins.
The study reported that the 0.5% polidocanol solution improved 87.1% of the treated varicose veins, while placebo treatment only helped 13.6%. Patients treated with the 1% polidocanol solution saw a 86.4% response rate, compared to only 12.5% of the patients who received a placebo. Finally, the 3% polidocanol solution showed results in 88.6% of patients, while only 4.3% of patients in this group were helped by placebo treatment. These results show that no matter how severe your varicose veins are, sclerotherapy is likely to be very effective.
If you're unhappy with the appearance of your varicose veins, or if your varicose veins are causing pain or discomfort, talk to a doctor from an establishment like Premier Surgical Associates about sclerotherapy.