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Sclerotherapy: Say Good-Bye to Spider Veins!

Arteries carry oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells. Arteries are found deep beneath the surface, well protected from simple scratches and falls. Veins carry oxygen-depleted blood away from cells. Veins lie closer to the surface, sometimes too close.

In older adults veins can form connected or unconnected lines in areas just under the skin. Usually hidden, those “spider veins” can appear in regions of the body that are seldom obscured from view. When that happens, a patient might desire sclerotherapy.

During a sclerotherapy procedure, the physician uses a thin needle to inject a solution into the unsightly veins. That solution causes the blood in the veins to lose its color. The veins cease to appear purple, red or blue.

The physician normally meets with a patient before the sclerotherapy, seeking answers to several questions. The physician wants to know how long the patient has been aware of the problem veins. The physician will also inquire about changes in the veins that have been observed following physical activity. The physician should be informed about any prior attempts to do away with the problem veins.

Once the physician has all the information that he or she needs, then the physician prepares the patient for the sclerotherapy. A patient should not have sclerotherapy until he or she has gone without aspirin for 24 to 48 hours. A physician typically marks the problem veins on the patient. If the veins are on the patient’s leg, then the patient must stand during the marking process.

On the day of the sclerotherapy, the physician cleanses the skin in the area where the veins are to be removed. The physician then injects a hardening solution into the veins in the marked area. The hardening solution has the ability to displace the blood in the injected veins.

Displacement of the blood in the veins removes color from the veins. The hardening solution also causes the infected vein to swell. That swelling closes the veins, preventing movement of new blood into the infected veins.

After the removal of the thin needle, the physician applies pressure to the injected area. It is like the action of a technician after he or she had drawn blood from a patient. The pressure limits any bleeding that might result from damage inflicted by the needle to the skin and underlying blood vessels.

Possible after effects of sclerotherapy include blistering, bruising and clot formation. The occurrence of those side effects can by reduced by avoiding hard physical activity in the first 24 hours after the sclerotherapy. Walking is permissible and restores blood flow in those blood vessels untouched by the sclerotherapy needle.

Following sclerotherapy, patients should not hesitate to use elastic stockings if they so desire. Patients should not view leg elevation as a valuable recovery tool. If the patient finds that he or she is allergic to the hardening solution, then antihistamines can diminish the strength of the allergic response.

Most insurers do not cover sclerotherapy, unless the physician has linked a patient’s pain to the existence of the spider veins.