Are you hiding your legs because of varicose veins? Spider veins? Trading shorts and skirts for long pants and knee socks is an every day reality for both men and women. But it doesn’t have to be. If your sock drawer is overflowing and your legs haven’t seen the light of day for years, you’ll want to read on and find out about the most popular and effective treatment for spider veins and varicose veins.
Varicose veins and spider veins affect more than half the population. The condition is slightly more common in women, and can be a real problem for some people. Aside from the discomfort, the appearance of spider veins and or varicose veins can ruin your confidence when wearing shorts, dresses, or bathing suits. The most widely accepted treatment is called sclerotherapy, and it is a simple, relatively painless, outpatient procedure.
“About 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men in the United States suffer from some type of vein problem. Varicose veins affect half of people 50 years and older.” – womenshealth.gov
If you have vein problems, you’re probably wondering “why me”? Contributing factors and underlying causes include: increasing age, medical history, hormonal changes, pregnancy, obesity, lack of movement, and sun exposure. Sun protection (especially for fair-skinned people), controlling your weight, and avoiding sitting for long periods of time are preventative measures.
Sclerotherapy is a common procedure that doctors have used for many years to treat both spider veins and varicose veins. Basically, your doctor will use a very thin needle to inject a sterile solution called a sclerosing agent directly into the veins. This sclerosing agent may be a concentrated salt solution but other solutions can be used. The solution irritates the inside lining of the vein which makes it stick together. The veins close off, turn into scar tissue, and gradually fade. In most cases, the procedure takes about a half hour to forty-five minutes. Spider veins usually fade after about three to six weeks, while the larger varicose veins fade in about three to four months. In some cases, treatments may need to be repeated every four to six weeks.
If you decide to undergo sclerotherapy remember to tell your doctor about all medications (prescription, alternative and over-the-counter) that you are taking, and any medical conditions that you may have. Be aware that you will not be able to have sclerotherapy if you are confined to bed, pregnant or breastfeeding.
Be sure to follow all instructions, such as discontinuing any medications before the procedure. Make sure your doctor knows if you have any allergies to medications, iodine (for example, if you have an allergy to seafood), general or local anesthetics. Don’t use creams or lotions on the area before or after the treatment.
You may feel the prick of the needle during the procedure, and maybe some burning or stinging. After the sclerotherapy, your doctor may ask you to wear support hose or compression wrapping around the area. You may also need to be seen for one or more follow-up visits after your treatment.
The benefits of sclerotherapy include its ability to improve the appearance of about 50% to 80% of spider or varicose veins. Sclerotherapy may also decrease some of the symptoms associated with enlarged veins, such as burning, swelling or cramping, aching pain gets worse after sitting or standing for a long time, heaviness, itchy or irritated rash, darkening of the skin (in severe cases), and restless legs. Sclerotherapy is safe in skilled hands, and in most cases, is an outpatient procedure.
The risks of sclerotherapy include the possibility of scarring on the skin, and varicose veins in particular may appear worse before they get better. Some people may develop severe inflammation, or a blood clot in a vein, that might require additional treatment. While the risk of infection is very small, it’s always possible in any procedure that involves a break in the skin. Severe allergy to the sclerosing solution is also rare, but is a potentially serious side effect. There is also a small chance that the procedure won’t work well at all. It that case, your doctor may recommend an alternative therapy.