Varicose veins are a common affliction, affecting about 1 in 4 American adults. These bulging red, blue, or purple veins are generally more of a cosmetic issue than a medical one, but not only can they make you self-conscious, they can also be uncomfortable and cause skin rashes, so you might want to have them removed. One of the most common options for doing that is through sclerotherapy.
At Comprehensive Vascular Care, with locations in Novi and Southfield, Michigan, our expert team of vein specialists takes varicose veins seriously, and we’re dedicated to helping you look and feel your best. For small varicose veins, as well as spider veins, we often recommend sclerotherapy for our patients, especially during the winter. Here’s why.
Veins gone awry
When working properly, your veins return the deoxygenated blood from the tissues back up to the heart — against the pull of gravity. To ensure the blood flows in the right direction, the veins contain a series of one-way valves that close once the blood passes through, preventing any backward movement.
If the veins’ walls are weak, though, they can damage the valves so they don’t close completely, allowing the blood to stagnate and pool around them, a condition called venous insufficiency. The veins become engorged with blood, causing the characteristically colorful varicose veins.
Any vein in the body can become varicose, but they’re most often found in the legs, and especially in the calves. That’s because standing and walking and even the weight of your body puts additional pressure on the lower body veins. You may not experience any symptoms from your varicose veins, in which case they’re purely a cosmetic issue. However, you may have symptoms along with the distended vein, including:
- Swollen ankles and feet (because blood pools)
- A burning or throbbing sensation
- Muscle cramps, particularly at night
- Aching, “heavy” legs
- Itchy, dry, thin skin over the affected vein
The symptoms usually get worse during warmer weather or when you’ve been standing for a long time. Walking or elevating your legs may help ease your symptoms.
During sclerotherapy, your doctor injects a medical-grade solution, called a sclerant, into one or several veins. The solution causes the vein to form scar tissue and eventually collapse. Blood is then rerouted to healthy veins. The procedure is completely nonsurgical and doesn’t require anesthesia or any special preparation. Some people feel a tingling or burning sensation as the doctor injects the sclerant, while others feel nothing at all.
Following the injection, the doctor massages the area to prevent blood from flowing back into the vein. He’ll also most likely prescribe compression stockings and encourage you to walk and move your legs, both to prevent clots from forming.
By shrinking the veins, sclerotherapy makes them less visible and less uncomfortable. Most people need follow-up treatment to collapse the vein entirely, and if you have multiple varicose veins, you’ll usually require multiple treatments.
Studies show that sclerotherapy works well in 60-80% of cases. If the procedure isn’t successful for you, you may need to consider additional treatments, such as cryotherapy, laser therapy, or vein ablation.
Why the winter?
There are several reasons to have sclerotherapy done during the winter months. First, you should avoid sun exposure to the treated area during the two weeks or so following the procedure. The injection-caused inflammation, together with sun exposure, can lead to dark spots on your skin, especially if your skin tone is already on the dark side.
Second, while sclerotherapy has an excellent track record, the results are not immediate. For small varicose veins or the light web of spider veins, you can see marked results in 3-6 weeks following the procedure; for larger veins, it may be 3-4 months.
And third, if you require more than one session to achieve the results you want, your treatment period will be even longer.
During the winter, we’re usually indoors much of the time and not directly exposing our legs to the sun’s rays. If you have the procedure done in the winter months, therefore, you’ll have plenty of time to heal before you’re ready to show off your new, clear legs at the beach.
If you’re dealing with the effects of chronic venous insufficiency and are looking for an effective way to rid yourself of the unsightly and inefficient varicose veins that are the result, contact Comprehensive Vascular Care to see if you’re a good candidate for sclerotherapy. Call us at either of our locations, or schedule a consultation online with us today.