Varicose veins before and after sclerotherapy.
Individual results can vary.
(Photos courtesy of S. Zimmet, MD)
Millions of women and men are bothered by spider veins - those small yet unsightly clusters of red, blue or purple veins that most commonly appear on the thighs, calves and ankles. In fact, it's estimated that at least half of the adult female population is plagued with this common cosmetic problem.
Spider veins - known in the medical world as telangiectasias or sunburst varicosities - are small, thin veins that lie close to the surface of the skin. Although these super-fine veins are connected with the larger venous system, they are not an essential part of it. A number of factors contribute to the development of spider veins, including heredity, pregnancy and other events that cause hormonal shifts, weight gain, occupations or activities that require prolonged sitting or standing, and the use of certain medications.
Spider veins usually take on one of three basic patterns. They may appear in a true spider shape with a group of veins radiating outward from a dark central point; they may be arborizing and will resemble tiny branch-like shapes; or they may be simple linear and appear as thin separate lines. Linear spider veins are commonly seen on the inner knee, whereas the arborizing pattern often appears on the outer thigh in a sunburst or cartwheel distribution.
Varicose veins differ from spider veins in a number of ways. Varicose veins are larger - usually more than a quarter-inch in diameter, darker in color and tend to bulge. Varicose veins are also more likely to cause pain and be related to more serious vein disorders. For some patients, sclerotherapy can be used to treat spider veins. However, often surgical spider vein treatment is necessary for this condition.
Today, physicians of the Advance Vein are treating spider veins with sclerotherapy. In this rather simple procedure, veins are injected with a sclerosing solution, which causes them to collapse and fade from view. The procedure may also remedy the bothersome symptoms associated with spider veins, including aching, burning, swelling and night cramps. Although this procedure has been used in Europe for more than 50 years, it has only become popular in the United States during the past decade. The introduction of sclerosing agents that are mild enough to be used in small veins has made sclerotherapy predictable and relatively painless. If you're considering sclerotherapy to improve the appearance of your legs, this brochure will give you a basic understanding of the procedure - when it can help, how it's performed and what results you can expect. It won't answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances. Please ask your doctor if there is anything about the procedure you don't understand.
Sclerotherapy can be used to treat both varicose and spider veins. A tiny needle is used to inject the veins with a medication that irritates the lining of the vein. In response, the veins collapse and are reabsorbed. The surface veins are no longer visible. Sclerotherapy relieves symptoms due to varicose and spider veins in most patients. With this procedure, veins can be dealt with at an early stage, helping to prevent further complications. You may need anywhere from one to several sclerotherapy sessions for any vein region. Depending on the type and number of veins being treated you may have one to many injections per session. Generally, normal activities can be resumed after sclerotherapy. Medically prescribed support hose and/or bandages may need to be worn for several days to several weeks to assist in resolution of the veins. The procedure, performed in the doctor's office, usually causes only minimal discomfort. Bruising and pigmentation may occur after sclerotherapy. Bruising typically disappears within 1-2 weeks. Although pigmentation almost always fades, it can last for several months. Scarring and other complications are rare.