Sclerotherapy treats varicose veins by injecting a special foam or fluid solution directly into the affected veins using a fine needle. The solution irritates the lining of the veins, causing the sides of the veins to stick together, closing and sealing them.
After a few weeks the treated veins, which will no longer be filled with blood, will begin to fade while other, stronger veins will begin to take over the role of the damaged veins. Sclerotherapy is normally used for varicose veins and spider veins that are less than 6 millimetres in length.
Sclerotherapy, which has been used since the 1930s, is proven to be effective for most patients although, for some, the veins may reappear and require further treatments. Sclerotherapy may not be recommended if you’ve previously had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Sclerotherapy is usually performed as a day case so you’ll be able to go home on the same day, but you may not be able to drive yourself. The operation may be carried out under a local anaesthetic so the area being treated will be numbed.
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution through a very fine needle directly into the affected vein or veins. Sometimes the injection is guided into the vein using images from an ultrasound scan. You may experience mild discomfort or cramp for a couple of minutes, particularly when larger veins are being injected. Sclerotherapy should take less than half an hour.
Several veins can be treated in one session, depending on the size and location of the veins, as well as your own overall health.
We’ll discuss your aftercare and any follow-up appointments with you before you leave hospital. For a few days after the operation you may experience some discomfort which we’ll help you manage with painkillers.
You’ll have bandages or plasters covering the site of the injections which you’ll need to leave on and keep dry for three days. You’ll also need to wear compression stockings for up to a week.
You may need to take some time off work and you’ll need to avoid strenuous exercise for a few days after your operation. A few weeks after your operation the treated veins should begin to fade from view, gradually disappearing completely after a few months.
Sclerotherapy can sometimes cause side effects, including:
- blood clots in other veins in the leg
- blistering or initial redness at the site of treatment
- lower back pain
- skin colour changes where the veins were treated (freckled or brown patches)
- short-term vision problems
- Rarely, sclerotherapy can cause serious complications, such as strokes or ‘mini strokes’ (transient ischaemic attacks).
- Compression stockings
- Leg elevation
- Traditional surgery
- Endo venous laser therapy