Varicose vein sclerotherapy is a medical technique frequently used to treat small to medium sized varicose veins that is chiefly used to counter the visual, cosmetic symptoms of the condition and works to reduce the appearance of unsightly veins.
However, as is true of other techniques. sclerotherapy cannot prevent the appearance of new varicose veins. It involves the injection of a chemical into the affected veins to make them to scar up, close and seal. In order to ensure that the chemicals are being injected into the correct location, ultrasound imaging is used to direct the doctor to the damaged vein while a local painkiller is used to ensure that the procedure is not uncomfortable.
When an area of vein is closed in this manner, the other veins adapt to carry the rerouted blood flow in the same way that it does with other more invasive surgical interventions like ligation and stripping. However there is no need for a general anaesthetic which could potentially require an overnight stay in hospital.
This technique also has the advantage of cutting out the other risks that can arise from a hospital stay as well as being a much less invasive technique. The patient will probably need to have a special scan, known as a Doppler Ultra Sound Scan, prior to the treatment to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate treatment. It is always good practice to have scan before undertaking the treatment as it will highlight any undiagnosed problems that will negate the effects of the treatment or even make the varicose veins look and feel worse than they did before.
There are two variants of the varicose vein sclerotherapy technique that are available. Liquid Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a liquid chemical into the damaged vein and Foam sclerotherapywhere a foam, made up of the active ingredient of liquid sclerotherapy mixed with air to roughly the consistency of shaving foam, is injected into the veins which causes the blood to be forced out of the varicose area of vein, again causing the area to scar and close.
One of the key advantages of sclerotherapy is that it is usually performed using local anaesthesia, thus eliminating the increased risks that are part and parcel of general anaesthesia. Another major advantage of this procedure is that the patient is able to leave immediately after the treatment, can usually return to work the same day and even drive straight away if they feel up to it.
After the treatment they will still be required to wear compression bandages or pressure bandages on the affected area for between three days and a week to support the circulation until it has successfully returned to normal. It is also best to avoid very physical sports and hot baths for a week after the treatment.
While as a rule, sclerotherapy is a very safe and effective treatment for non-problematic varicose veins, there are some side effects to the process. Foam sclerotherapy in particular can cause fainting, visual disturbances, changes to skin colour over the affected area and more occasionally, blood clots in other areas, headaches and lower back pain. The risk of additional clotting can be reduced by making sure that compression stockings are worn as directed.