"Sclerotherapy," derived from an ancient Greek word that means “hardening,” is the process of injecting a chemical substance called a sclerosant into a problem vein to induce irritation of the connective tissue and lining of the lumen, or space inside the vein. The inflammation that results will cause the vein to seal shut, harden and eventually disintegrate. Once this occurs, the external physical appearance and any pain associated with the dysfunctional vein are eliminated.
Sclerotherapy is recommended for the treatment of small to medium sized varicose veins and telangiectasias, or spider veins.
What are spider and varicose veins?
Spider veins are the reddish, purplish, or bluish veins on the legs that can make many women feel self-conscious and avoid wearing shorts or skirts. These unsightly veins are usually the result of a genetic predisposition, pregnancy, weight gain, and certain lifestyle factors, like prolonged standing or sitting. Contrary to what some people have heard, they are not caused by crossing the legs while sitting.
Varicose veins are large, dark, bulging veins that are raised from the skin's surface. They are caused by defective venous valves, which normally operate to prevent blood from pooling or flowing in an opposite direction. When valves are operating poorly, the blood remains stagnant, over-filling the vein and causing painful throbbing along with the unsightly appearance. Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins and not often painful, though many dislike their aesthetic appearance. They are perpetually dilated veins that can range from dark blue to red in color. Spider veins can be caused by inefficient blood flow and a weakening of the vein's wall due to obesity, pregnancy, or numerous other factors.
During a sclerotherapy procedure – which doesn't require anesthesia and generally takes less than an hour to complete – a concentrated saline solution is injected directly into the vein. This causes the vein to scar and collapse, and forces blood to reroute through healthier veins. The collapsed vein is then reabsorbed into local tissue and eventually disappears or becomes much smaller. Most patients experience a significant improvement after sclerotherapy, although in some cases it may take several treatments for desired results.