Varicose veins and superficial spider veins often develop when the body is not effectively returning blood out of the legs and back up to the heart. This is called venous insufficiency and it occurs when veins lose their elasticity, become stretched, and develop faulty valves within the vein. As a result, blood begins to pool within the vein causing the veins in the legs to dilate and lose the ability to effectively circulate blood out of the legs back to the heart. Venous insufficiency often causes physical changes including unsightly bulging varicose veins, skin discoloration, rash, dry skin and even more commonly spider veins.
Varicose veins and spider veins as a result of venous insufficiency should be treated as soon as possible in order to prevent worsening symptoms of fatigue, pain, swelling, itching, skin discoloration, restless leg syndrome as well as other, more serious health conditions. In some cases, if left untreated venous insufficiency can lead to venous leg ulcerations, non-healing wounds, spontaneous bleeding, superficial thrombophlebitis (painful inflammation of the vein), lipodermatosclerosis, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT); leading to a potentially life threatening condition.
Fortunately, sclerotherapy, a treatment that lessens and often eliminates the appearance of spider veins, can be treated effectively in the doctors office with little discomfort. Visual sclerotherapy and ultrasound guided sclerotherapy performed at Texas Endovascular Associates can provide relief from unsightly and often symptomatic spider veins.
Preparing For Sclerotherapy
During your consultation your doctor will provide you with a specific, personalized treatment plan to treat your spider veins. Your treatment plan will depend on the location and extent of your spider veins as well as your current health conditions and medical history. Often your provider will use a combination of visual sclerotherapy and ultrasound guided injections to treat your spider veins. You will want to inform your doctor before treatment of any medications you are taking that could effect your treatment.
Some General Guidelines to Prepare for Sclerotherapy
- Stop shaving your legs 24 hours prior to procedure.
- Do not use lotions or apply skin products to your legs the day of your procedure.
- Limit direct sun exposure for three weeks prior to and following your procedure.
- Wear loose fitting clothing and comfortable shoes the day of your procedure.
- Notify your physician of any medications you are currently taking, but do not stop taking them.
- No swimming or water submersion for one week following treatment.
Cosmetic Sclerotherapy Versus Ultrasound guided Sclerotherapy?
Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy begins with an ultrasound examination to determine the exact location of each vein as some varicose veins or tributaries are often not visible with the naked eye. These varicose veins can essentially cause an increase of pressure to the surface of the legs, resulting in the capillaries on the surface “bursting” and causing unsightly surface spider veins. Often ultrasound guided injections are necessary to treat spider veins effectively and minimize their appearance.
Cosmetic Sclerotherapy treats surface spider veins that may or may not be caused by venous insufficiency. It is possible to develop spider veins without having an underlying medical issue, especially in women. Heredity, pregnancy, and hormonal changes can all effect development and the appearance of spider veins. Unlike ultrasound guided sclerotherapy for larger varicose veins, Cosmetic Sclerotherapy is not covered by your insurance. Whether your spider veins are the result of venous insufficiency is determined by a physical examination and an ultrasound evaluation of the legs.
What Can I Expect?
Whether undergoing ultrasound guided sclerotherapy for larger varicose veins or visual sclerotherapy for cosmetic reasons, the procedure preparation is similar. To begin, the patient lies down on a table with legs exposed. Using a small needle, a medication suited for the type and size of the vein to be treated is injected into the vein. Medication used to treat an abnormal vein essentially creates scar tissue within the vein; causing the vein to gradually reabsorb into the body, lessening and often eliminating the appearance. The procedure itself, although sometimes uncomfortable, is generally very tolerable. Depending on the individual and how may veins need to be treated, the procedure takes 20 minutes to an hour to complete and patients are encouraged to resume normal daily activities. Walking 30 minutes following treatment is recommended. In addition, compression wear is advised following treatment and any pain experienced during and following treatment can be easily managed with over the counter anti-inflammatory medications.
Depending on the extent, size, and location of spider veins multiple session of sclerotherapy may be necessary to achieve the desired cosmetic results. Your physician will determine how many session you can expect based on your physical examination and ultrasound results; and discuss this with you at your consultation. Whether seeking treatment for cosmetic reasons or because you are experiencing symptoms related to venous insufficiency, the earlier you seek treatment the more effective your treatment will be.