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  • Sclerotherapy

  • Sclerotherapy is an injection therapy used to treat spider veins and varicose veins. In this procedure the dermatologist uses a fine needle to inject a sclerosing solution directly into the unwanted blood vessel. There are several different solutions that can be used, depending on the size of the blood vessel and other factors.

    The solution irritates the lining of the vein, causing the blood to thicken and block the vessel. It then breaks down into scar tissue, which is further broken down by the body over a period of a few weeks. Any resulting scar tissue is either completely invisible or barely noticeable, and the vein no longer exists.

    Sclerotherapy has a long history, and has been used to treat spider veins since the 1930s. Recent advances in ultrasound-guided techniques allow dermatologists to use sclerotherapy on veins that are located more deeply under the skin and that previously could only be treated by surgery.

    Side Effects

    Possible side effects of sclerotherapy vary with the type of solution injected and may include:

    • Pain at the injection site
    • Swollen ankles or feet
    • Muscle cramps immediately after the injection (depending on the type of solution used)
    • Red, raised hive-like areas at the injection site
    • Differences in skin pigmentation around the treatment area (This occurs more frequently in patients who have larger veins treated.)
    • Smaller, red blood vessels that appear in the place of larger ones that had been treated. Additional treatment can remove these.
    • Small ulcers at the injection sites that can appear up to a few days after treatment
    • Bruising
    • Allergic reaction to the solution
    • Inflammation of the blood vessel that was treated (unusual)
    • A lump of coagulated blood in the treated vessel (This can be easily drained by the dermatologist.)

    A history of blood clots is not necessarily a reason to avoid sclerotherapy or vein treatment. Patients should keep in mind that veins may reappear or new veins may form in their place after any spider or varicose vein procedure, including sclerotherapy.

    There are several other treatment options for spider and varicose veins as well.

    Dermatologists at Rhode Island Hospital offer sclerotherapy as a treatment for spider veins. For more information or for a cosmetic consultation, please call 401-444-3489.