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Sclerotherapy is a treatment that involves injecting a solution into unwanted varicose or spider veins. These veins may appear on the legs or may be hidden under the skin and fat. The unwanted blood vessels are red or bluish in colour and are a common problem, particularly for women. Some small varicose veins are raised above the skin's surface and may cause aching.
Sclerotherapy is not just a cosmetic procedure. Varicose vein disease can cause many health problems such as blood clots, venous eczema, skin breakdown and ulceration and, rarely, skin cancers.
Causes of varicose and spider veins
The cause of varicose and spider veins is not known. However, in many cases, they run in families. Women seem to develop this problem more often than men. Changes in oestrogen levels in the blood may have a role in the development of varicose veins. This may be due to taking the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy, or due to natural hormonal fluctuations such as puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause.
Other factors that may contribute include:
How sclerotherapy works
The solution,which is injected into the vein, is called a sclerosant. It causes the vein to close by irritating the blood vessel so that it swells and sticks together. This process causes the veins to fade and eventually they can no longer be seen. Some vessels will have vanished by the time the support stockings are removed.
Each vein may require several injections, given some weeks apart. Multiple veins can be injected in one treatment session. Allergic reactions to the sclerosing solution are very rare.
Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy
Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy (UGS) uses ultrasound to locate the underlying leaking veins and aims to seal off the leakage points. The leakage could come from small ‘perforating veins’ that are usually below the knees, or main valves behind the knees or in the groin.
Some people have multiple leaking valves. UGS closes these abnormal veins and restores the circulation back to normal. UGS is best for people with:
Pain and the procedure
The injection uses a fine needle that causes a barely noticeable pinprick feeling. Some people experience a slight to moderate burning feeling immediately after the injection, but this disappears after a few seconds.
Following the procedure
To improve the blood circulation in the deep veins, it is essential to walk after the treatment. A compression stocking is worn to reduce the risk of bruising and swelling or other complications. Regular exercise, weight control and the use of support stockings (if practical) are recommended between treatments and after treatment.
Possible side effects
Possible side effects of sclerotherapy include:
Possible causes of inflammation
Inflammation (phlebitis) and blood clots can be caused if :
Minimising the risk of varicose and spider veins
The following suggestions may help to prevent varicose and spider veins :
Things to remember
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