When it comes to treating spider veins, the gold standard of therapy a vein specialist uses is sclerotherapy. This physician, who is often an interventional radiologist, can sometimes also utilize this procedure to treat small varicose veins. Understanding how doctors use this treatment often helps patients determine whether it is right for them.
Although spider veins seldom cause medical problems, they are a cosmetic annoyance that can affect self-esteem for many sufferers. Vein doctors initially attempt to manage these small, troublesome vessels by recommending conservative measures such as avoiding extended periods of standing or sitting, shedding excess pounds, and wearing compression stockings. However, when results from these measures fail to satisfy a patient, physicians typically recommend elimination of spider veins. Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that patients usually undergo at a vein clinic. According to the Cleveland Clinic, use of this procedure by U.S. physicians began in the 1930s. Fewer than 10 percent of patients fail to respond to this treatment, which can eliminate as many as 50 to 80 percent of treated vessels in a single session. Vein specialists frequently add ultrasound to sclerotherapy in order to get a precise mapping of veins to treat.
The first step toward eliminating spider veins is a consultation with a specialist in vein treatment. This physician will complete a physical exam and evaluate the patient’s medical history and current medications. After the doctor determines that the individual is a good candidate, the patient can schedule sclerotherapy and will receive pre-appointment instructions. The Mayo Clinic advises that an individual avoid applying lotion to or shaving an affected leg for a minimum of 24 hours prior to sclerotherapy. Loose clothing such as shorts and comfortable shoes make the appointment more pleasant. After arriving, the patient dons a procedure gown and lies on a table on his or her back. The legs are elevated. Before the physician begins sclerotherapy, the staff cleanses each treatment area. The doctor injects a special liquid known as a sclerosant into each targeted vessel via a fine needle. This liquid irritates vessel walls, causing the vein to close after scarring. Healthier veins nearby assume the circulation workload. The body absorbs the treated vein, which eventually fades. The physician massages the treated area immediately after an injection to help the liquid disperse. Soon after the procedure is complete, the patient is up and walking. Although individuals must forego exposure to the sun for two weeks and avoid strenuous activity, they can return to their normal daily routines as soon as they return home. Most patients report little discomfort from sclerotherapy, which does not require anesthesia. It usually takes spider veins a few weeks to fade. Many patients require several treatments for optimal results.