doctor showing varicose veins from an elderly woman
Sclerotherapy is a treatment for varicose or spider veins. The treatment is minimally invasive and is done by injecting a solution with a tiny needle into the affected vein. The solution irritates the vein causing it to collapse or close gradually over time. The collapsed vein then fades from view. This procedure has been used since the 1930s and has a success rate of 50-80%.
It is important to avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, and other anti-inflammatory medications for 48 hours before and after your procedure. At the time of your consultation it is important to go over all of your current medications. Do not apply lotion before or after the procedure.
The treatment takes about 30-45 minutes. There is mild discomfort and cramping sensation when the veins are injected. Since this is a minimally invasive procedure there is no sedation required and you are able to drive yourself home and resume normal activity. Strenuous exercises should be avoided for 3-5 days to allow your legs time to heal. Following the procedure you will be advised to avoid hot baths, saunas, hot compresses, or any form of heat to the injected areas. You may take a shower but the temperature should be cooler than usual and the injection site can only be washed with mild soap and lukewarm water. Normal side effects that will resolve with time are bruising, temporary tiny blood vessels around the treated area, and the affected veins may become lumpy or hard before getting better.
Complications such as, sudden appearance of a swollen leg, small ulcers at the injection site, red streaking or inflammation in the groin area are rare and your physician should be contacted immediately.
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Another minimally invasive option to reduce or remove varicose veins that does not require sedation. Microphlebectomy is also called ambulatory phlebectomy. The procedure takes about 30 minutes to an hour. You will be advised to wear loose fitting clothes on the day of procedure for comfort. The area around the vein will be numbed with a local anesthetic.
During this procedure the vein is removed without surgery by small nicks or holes made in the skin and small instrument removes the varicose veins through these knicks. The knicks are so small that stitches are not required and the physician will place small bandages over the treated areas and your leg will be wrapped. You can resume normal activities 24 hours after your procedure. Strenuous exercise and hot baths should be avoided for 2-3 weeks. Air travel and long car trips should be avoided for 3 weeks following the procedure.
This procedure is ideal for people that have superficial varicose veins and has a high success rate of 90% and a low recurrence rate of 2%. There is minimal to no scars and has great results. Risks of microphlebectomy include infection or change in the color of the skin permanently. Rare complications include bleeding, hematoma, numbness, or tingling.
Laser Vein Removal
Laser vein removal is quick and minimally invasive and does not require sedation. The area will be numbed with a numbing cream prior to treatment for comfort. The procedure takes about 15-30 minutes but may need multiple treatments.
Laser vein removal works by concentrating the laser light at the affected vein. The laser light is absorbed by the blood resulting in heat that coagulates or clogs the blood in the vein. This destroys the function of that vein and the vein will be naturally absorbed by the body and gradually disappears from view as part of the healing process. It is important to avoid sun exposure for 3 weeks before and after treatment and to wear sunscreen on the treated areas. During your consultation make sure to let the physician know about any current medications you are taking.
Laser vein removal is a great alternative when other treatments have not been successful or can be used in conjunction with other treatments for quicker and more effective results. The amount of treatments you need depends on the size, length, depth, and location of the vein. Treatments are scheduled about every 6 to 12 weeks apart. There is no down time at all with laser vein removal so can resume full normal activity following each treatment. Common side effects are redness, swelling, or mild bruising but will resolve.