You may have noticed red, blue or purple veins around your thighs, calves or ankles, known as spider veins. These veins appear because they are ‘broken’ (not burst) and are not functioning correctly as veins.
Spider veins, (like varicose veins, which are just worse versions of spider veins), are dysfunctional veins no longer doing you any favours. Taking this vein out of the circulatory system is akin to firing a lazy co-worker. Once the lazy worker is gone, the bottleneck in that vein stops slowing the whole team down. The surrounding veins can go back to their usual efficient selves.
The treatment for spider veins is called sclerotherapy, which involves injecting the vein with a special solution. The solution irritates the vein walls, causing it to collapse. This collapse renders the vein out of order, so the body cleans the old vein up, scavenging the cells. The vein then disappears from the network, and you won’t see it anymore.
Spider veins may signal other circulatory weaknesses, so it’s important to be checked carefully by an experienced, qualified person. It could just be a few unsightly veins, but it’s best to be sure.
Spider veins may be uncomfortable and cause aching, burning, swelling and cramping, but they may have no associated symptoms.
Sclerotherapy is one of our oldest most successful medical treatments and has stood the test of time for its effectiveness and safety.
Sclerotherapy is also highly individualised, and not everyone will be a suitable candidate. It’s important to have a consultation with one of ENRICH Clinic’s experienced dermatologists so we can assess your overall health and see what we can find out.
Sclerotherapy and pregnancy
Pregnancy can cause spider veins to appear, though it is advisable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding to postpone sclerotherapy. The veins may disappear on their own within a few months post-birth. We aren’t sure what the effects of the sclerosing solution may be on a growing foetus or a breastfeeding baby, so we prefer to delay until there is no risk.
Deeper vein problems
Your doctor may discover that you have deeper, underlying vein problems, in which case we will refer you to a specialist for evaluation. More significant vein problems need to be treated before spider veins because if you don’t address the underlying large vein problem, you’ll just end up with more and more spider veins despite successful treatment.
We cannot prevent new veins from popping up, but treating deeper veins increases the chance of preventing new veins appearing or slowing the rate at which they appear.
Signs of deeper vein problems may be leg, ankle and feet symptoms such as swelling, aching, itching or tenderness.
Who can and can’t get sclerotherapy for spider veins?
Some people shouldn’t undergo sclerotherapy – those with certain viruses, immune deficiencies or cardiovascular issues, for example. Those on birth control pills can have the treatment, but if you have a history of blood clots, you’ll need to have your risk assessed further.
The best candidates for sclerotherapy are those who are healthy and have realistic expectations of what we can achieve. Sometimes not all the spider veins can be removed.
Recovery from sclerotherapy for spider veins
Sclerotherapy doesn’t require an anaesthetic, and it’s normal to feel some discomfort in the days afterwards, but it’s not usually severe enough to warrant any pain medication. Once you’ve had sclerotherapy, your spider veins will look worse before they look better. Bruising will appear that can take a few weeks to disappear.
Your veins will take 3-6 weeks to disappear, with larger veins taking longer. Many people need to repeat treatments to get rid of all the veins in the area.
Side-effects of sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy is usually very well tolerated, but some problems can occur afterwards that require your doctor’s attention.
If a larger vein becomes lumpy and hard, it may take a little while longer to break up and fade away. In some instances, brown lines may appear at the site of the spider vein, taking 3-6 months to disappear. Sometimes they don’t disappear at all.
Paradoxically, very occasionally new blood vessels will appear at the sclerotherapy site. These new veins may appear days or even weeks after the procedure but usually, fade without further treatments.
Once home after the treatment, walking is encouraged. You’ll need to wear compression garments as you heal, but your doctor will advise how long to wear these. Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen for 48 hours – you need the inflammatory response to kick-start the vein’s collapse and reabsorption into your system. Avoid hot baths or compresses, saunas and direct sunlight as you await your new, smoother-looking legs.
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