Spider Vein Treatment: What to Expect from Sclerotherapy

Although they are usually just cosmetic problems, spider veins can trigger a significant dip in a person’s self-confidence. For spider vein treatment, vein doctors consider sclerotherapy the so-called gold standard.  Finding out who is a good candidate for this procedure and learning what to expect can reduce the stress of treating these unattractive blood vessels.

Spider Vein Treatment Overview

These blood vessels are tiny—no more than 2 mm—and most frequently develop on the legs or the face.  They appear red, blue, or purple.  Although similar to varicose veins, they are much smaller and usually develop closer to the skin’s surface.  UCLA Health indicates that the three most common factors responsible for spider veins are these:

  • A family history
  • Pregnancy
  • Sitting or standing for extended periods

Somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of all U.S. women and 10 to 25 percent of men suffer from vein problems in the lower legs, according to the University of Virginia Health System.  Spider veins account for many of these cases.

Patients with bothersome spider veins can visit vein doctors, also known as vascular surgeons, for a treatment recommendation.  When conservative measures such as compression stockings are insufficient, a vein doctor often recommends sclerotherapy.

Who is a Good Candidate?

Sclerotherapy is an outpatient, non-invasive procedure vascular surgeons usually perform at a vein clinic.  At the initial appointment, a vein doctor will determine whether a patient is a good candidate for this treatment.  The Cleveland Clinic reports that an ideal candidate:

  • Is not bedridden or breastfeeding
  • Has realistic expectations
  • Has not been pregnant for a minimum of three months
  • Understands that the procedure cannot prevent new spider veins

Patients with current clotting issues or who are on anticoagulant medications are not usually acceptable candidates.  Incidence of past clots merits careful consideration.

Sclerotherapy at a Vein Treatment Center

This procedure destroys spider veins via an injection.  Doctors started using it in the 1930s.  After cleansing the area around the targeted vessels, a vascular surgeon uses a fine needle to inject a special solution called a sclerosing agent directly into the vein.

The solution irritates the lining of the vessel, causing the walls to swell, then adhere to each other.  Some patients report a small sting or burning that lasts only a few seconds.  Eventually, the tissue resorbs, and the vein fades.  Healthy neighboring vessels pick up its workload.

Individuals can quickly return to their normal routines after sclerotherapy.  Compression stockings worn after the procedure help compress the veins treated.

Reports suggest that sclerotherapy is successful for the majority of patients.  Results for treated spider veins are usually visible within three to six weeks.  In one session, it is possible to eliminate between 50 and 80 percent of targeted vessels.  Since new spider veins might eventually form, some patients return for periodic treatment.