Spider veins are nonpainful, smaller veins that are closer to the skin's surface. The appear red or blue in color and form web-like or tree branch-like designs. They can be found on the legs or face and typically do not cause any health concerns.
Sclerotherapy is a widely used cosmetic treatment for non-painful varicose and spider veins. A solution is injected into the vein and irritates the lining of the vein. This occludes the blood vessel and the vein will fade and disappear as it turns into scar tissue over the next few weeks or months (depending on the size of the vein).
Smaller spider veins typically take 3 to 6 weeks to become lighter or disappear, while larger veins may take as long as 3 to 4 months. Some veins may require more than one treatment to achieve your expected outcome; typically 50-80% of your treated veins will be eliminated per session. And while the treated veins will not reappear, the treatment will not prevent new veins from appearing. Therefore you may need to return for future treatments.
A small number of patients do not respond to the injections at all and may require a different solution or method to achieve their desired outcome.
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Charlotte Radiology's Interventional Radiologists will help you determine if you will benefit from sclerotherapy. During an initial consultation, our physician carefully reviews your medical history and examines your veins to map out problem areas. We may recommend an ultrasound to rule out any deeper issues.
The saphenous vein and other veins that may be considered usable for future surgical bypass procedures may not be considered for injection. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be advised to wait 3-4 months after pregnancy, as many veins that appear during pregnancy will disappear on their own in time. It also is not known how the sclerosing solutions interact with breast milk; so it may be best to wait until after you are done nursing your newborn to consider sclerotherapy.
Please let us know if you are taking antibiotics 7-10 days prior to or after the treatment. Let the staff know if you take aspirin daily. We will then determine if you will need to discontinue before any procedures. Tylenol and Ibuprofen are allowed. If you think you may be pregnant, please notify the Vein Nurse. Shower using antibacterial soap on the day of your procedure. Do not shave your legs the day of the treatment. Do not apply lotion, cream or oils to your legs before the procedure. Eat a light meal or drink juice one hour before the procedure. For your comfort, you may bring a pair of shorts to wear during the procedure. If you have compression hosiery, please bring them with you so we can make sure they will provide adequate support after the procedure.
Arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. If you are late, you may be asked to reschedule. If you need to cancel, please call us as soon as possible or at least 24 hours before your appointment at 704-333-3794 ext. 2220.
Sclerotherapy is performed in our outpatient vein clinic and takes 30 to 45 minutes to complete. The number of veins treated per session depends on your medical condition, tolerance to the medication, and the size and location of the veins. A small needle containing an injection of sodium tetradecyl sterile solution (a local anesthetic) is inserted directly into your vein. You may experience some discomfort, pain or cramping when larger veins are treated. Some patients may feel slightly dizzy during the procedure; let the nurse or physician assistant know and she can slow down the treatment process. After the procedure, you will put on your compression stockings and walk on our treadmill for 10 minutes at a slow pace.
You will be able to drive and resume regular activities after the treatment, and you are encouraged to walk. Expect to have minimal to mild pain, bruising, cramping and swelling for the first 24 hours after therapy.
Some patients may experience the following side effects after sclerotherapy:
- Larger injected varicose veins may become lumpy and hard for several months before resolving.
- Raised red areas may appear at the treatment sites and should disappear within a few days.
- Brown lines or spots on the skin may be noted at the site of the injection, possibly caused by a form of iron that escapes from the injected veins. In most cases, they disappear within 3 to 6 months, but can be permanent about 5 percent of the time.
- Bruising may occur around the injection site and can last several days or weeks.
Other side effects rarely develop after sclerotherapy.
For the best results follow these instructions:
- You are encouraged to wear support hosiery to "compress" the treated vessels as well as the wraps provided by the nurse for a continuous 24 hours.
- Take Tylenol or Motrin as directed for any pain. Avoid aspirin.
- Take over-the-counter Benadryl as directed for itching.
- Use ice packs for especially sore areas.
- Elevate legs for added pain relief.
- Avoid strenuous activities such as high impact aerobics, running or weight lifting.
- Walk at least one hour per day.
- Do not take hot baths or sit in a whirlpool or sauna or apply hot compresses or any form of heat to the injected areas.
- A sponge bath or lukewarm shower is permitted if you are able to keep your stockings and wraps dry.
- In addition, avoid direct exposure to sunlight (sun bathing and tanning beds).
- Notify Charlotte Radiology at 704-333-3794 ext. 2220 if you have increasing pain, persistent itching or rash, progressive areas of redness, warmth or drainage, fever, swelling, persistent bleeding, lump formations, shortness of breath, chest pains, or leg numbness.
Day 3 to 2 Weeks:
- Treated areas may be red-purple in color, with some bruising.
- Wear compression stockings during day hours for next 14 days (put on in the morning and take off before bed).
- You may shower without stockings, but continue to avoid hot baths and hot tubs, etc.
- Resume normal athletic activities as tolerated.
- If needed, you may schedule another appointment in 4-6 weeks. Call 704-333-3794 ext. 2220. Call your physician with any concerns or questions you may have after the procedure.