Health - Conditions
By: - at May 18, 2013

Using Sclerotherapy to Get Rid of Varicose Veins

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins, which are caused by weakened circulatory valves, usually appear on the legs. Most commonly these unsightly veins show up on the thighs, insides of the legs, or on the calves. Looking like twisted, bulging cords, the veins can be colored blue or red but they may appear flesh-colored too.

Why Varicose Veins Develop

Around half the population of women and 40 percent of men in the United States suffer from varicose veins, with approximately 50% of the population over 50 years old exhibiting varicose symptoms. Therefore, as time progresses, your risk of getting varicose veins also increases as well. Other influences such as heredity, hormonal changes, lack of exercise, obesity, and pregnancy, can cause the veins to develop too.

The valves in the legs are designed with one-way flaps. They are designed to keep the blood flowing upwards in its journey to the heart. However, if these flaps become weak, then the blood will begin to pool and collect. When this occurs, a condition known as venous insufficiency results, thereby leading to varicosity.

Because of the force of gravity and extra body weight, the pressure of carrying blood upwards can be greater than what the valves of the veins can manage. That's why varicose veins frequently develop in the legs.

Symptoms Associated with Venous Insufficiency or Varicose Veins

Varicose veins that appear in the legs may also cause the following symptoms:

  • A feeling of heaviness in the legs
  • Throbbing or aching of the legs
  • Irritation, marked by a rash
  • Restlessness

In severe instances, the skin may start to darken too.

Serious Health Issues That Can Develop from Varicosities

While varicose veins may not cause any of the aforementioned symptomatology, the problem should, nonetheless, be addressed as more serious health issues can result, including the following:

  • Bleeding, especially if the skin covering the veins is thin, all which can cause a substantial loss of blood.
  • Skin ulcers or sores on the ankles or legs.
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis, which is exhibited by such symptoms as warmth and tenderness at the vein site and, in some instances, swelling, pain, or skin redness. The condition develops when a blood clot forms in a vein just beneath the skin's surface.
  • Deep vein thrombosis. This condition results when a blood clot forms in a deeper vein. Some patients complain that they feel a pulling in their calf, accompanied by warmth, pain, swelling, or redness. Other patients may not experience any kind of symptoms at all. Deep vein thrombosis should be treated immediately as it can lead to death if the clot breaks away and travels to the lungs.

Deep vein thrombosis:
Deep vein thrombosis
By James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia Commons

When You Should You Talk to a Doctor

So, if you have varicose veins, it's imperative to see a doctor about the problem if a vein has become warm or tender to the touch and is swollen or red. You should also see a health care provider if you have a rash or sores on your leg or around your ankles. If the varicose vein starts to bleed, or your daily routine is affected by the condition, then it's essential that you talk to a doctor without delay.

Superficial Venous Reflux Disease

When varicose veins cause leg heaviness, cramping, throbbing, or aching, then the condition is referred to as superficial venous reflux disease or venous insufficiency. Even if you don't exhibit varicose veins visually. you may be suffering from a condition that is effected only the deeper veins. Veins that don't appear at the skin's surface may be affected without the patient knowing it. Therefore, you can suffer from superficial venous reflux disease with or without the appearance of varicosities.

Telangiectasias (Spider Veins)

Spider Veins:
Spider Veins

Smaller veins, called spider veins, can also develop from venous insufficiency. However, these veins, which are much smaller than the varicose kind, appear closer to the skin's surface. Often colored red, purplish, or blue, the veins, and as their name suggests they branch out like a spider's web. The smaller veins are usually seen on the face or legs. Spider veins, known as telangiectasias, may also appear as the result of an overexposure to the sun or because of trauma or an injury. The veins frequently appear on the face on either the nose or cheeks.

Sclerotherapy: A Common Vein Removal Procedure

A common treatment used to treat varicose veins or spider veins is sclerotherapy. In this procedure, the doctor injects a chemical solution, called a sclerosant, into the affected vein, which, in turn, causes the vein walls to swell and then seal shut. This process stops the blood flow and causes the injected vein to turn into scar tissue over time. After a few weeks, the vein will fade from view. Patients like this treatment as it can be facilitated without anesthesia in the doctor's office. In fact, many patients can return to work after the treatment process.

Treatment Sessions for Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy treatments typically take place more than one time, with the number of sessions contingent on the size of the veins, their depth, and number. Sessions usually last about fifteen to thirty minutes, with each appointment scheduled about four weeks apart.

Sclerotherapy Treatment

When Sclerotherapy Results are Seen

Results for treating spider veins appear in about three to six weeks. If the procedure is used for treating small or medium varicose veins, then results are seen after about four months' time.

A Minimally Invasive Treatment Option

After varicose vein treatment, you may be advised to wear a compression stocking in order to promote healing and reduce swelling.

Compression Stockings
Compression Stockings
By Hutschi via Wikimedia Commons

While patients can experience some itching or bruising at the injection site, any discomfort quickly subsides. An over-the-counter pain medicine is typically recommended to manage pain. Because sclerotherapy is considered minimally invasive, very few side effects result from the therapy.

Removing Large Varicose Veins

Usually, sclerotherapy is recommended for people with spider veins (telangiectasias) or varicose veins that are small or medium in size. Large varicose veins may be treated by such modalities as vein stripping, which requires making small cuts into a vein site before removing the vein, or by the use of thermal energy, which shrinks the vein walls. This type of ablative therapy is often combined with foam sclerotherpay. Foam sclerotherapy makes use of a sclerosant as well as a mild detergent in the vein removal process. In some cases, surgery, such as ambulatory phlebectomy, is recommended to get rid of a large surface vein.

Ambulatory phlebectomy surgery:
Ambulatory phlebectomy surgery

After Sclerotherapy Treatment

After sclerotherapy is performed, it's essential that patients develop a regular walking routine in order to encourage healthy circulation. Sclerotherapy is considered safe to use on the legs as well as on the arms, hands, and facial areas.

When Sclerotherapy is Not Advised

However, that all being said, certain people should avoid the procedure, especially pregnant or nursing women, patients who've had a history of deep vein thrombosis, or anyone who is currently taking anticoagulant medications or corticosteroids.





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