Summer is here, which can only mean one thing: it’s shorts and swimsuit season. While that news may cause some to rejoice, others who are embarrassed about the appearance of unsightly spider and varicose veins on their legs may not be as excited about it. Because these veins rarely disappear on their own, the most effective way to eliminate them is with sclerotherapy, an easy procedure that requires little to no downtime. Double board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Timothy Mountcastle, founder of Mountcastle Vein Clinic in Ashburn, VA, explains how sclerotherapy can help you feel more confident about sporting bikini bottoms and Bermuda shorts.
During this minimally invasive procedure, a micro-needle is used to inject specially formulated medications into the linings of spider and varicose veins, causing them to become irritated, scar, and collapse. Blood flow is then rerouted to other veins, and the treated veins eventually are reabsorbed by the body, which causes them to vanish. The entire procedure usually takes about an hour and most patients are able to immediately resume their normal daily. Besides tackling the cosmetic issues most commonly associated with spider and varicose veins, sclerotherapy also treats physical symptoms of the condition including legs cramps, swelling, aching, and other pain.
What causes varicose and spider veins?
Varicose veins lie close to the skin’s surface. They may appear swollen or lumpy, are often blue or purple in color, and can be painful. They most commonly are seen on the inner leg and calves, having developed as a result of age, pregnancy, and poor circulation. Other risk factors include living a sedentary lifestyle, being a smoker, and having had multiple pregnancies or a family history of varicose veins. If treatments such as wearing compression stockings fail to improve the appearance of varicose veins, sclerotherapy may be recommended for patients in Northern Virginia.
Most people experience spider veins as they age. These can look similar to the skinny legs of a spider or a bruised area that fails to go away. Although their appearance on the ankles, thighs, and sometimes the face can be annoying, they usually are not indicative of larger venous system problems. Like varicose veins, spider veins may be caused by heredity as well as weight gain, pregnancy, certain medications, and occupations that require prolonged periods of standing and sitting. Their appearance can worsen over time.
Are you a candidate for sclerotherapy?
Most people who struggle with spider and varicose veins can safely undergo sclerotherapy. That includes patients who previously have experienced blood clots but are deemed eligible for the outpatient procedure in our vein treatment center following a review of their medical history by Dr. Mountcastle at Mountcastle Vein Clinic in Ashburn, VA. The doctor will want to know whether you take certain supplements or medications such as blood thinners and antibiotics, or if you have any existing medical conditions.
Sclerotherapy is not performed solely to address cosmetic concerns. It can also be used to correct veins in the legs that are abnormal and could develop ulcers or other open wounds that are potentially life-threatening. For these and other reasons, including chronic pain and swelling, the procedure can be deemed medically necessary and the associated costs may be covered by insurance.
What does the procedure involve?
Prior to undergoing a sclerotherapy treatment, patients in Northern Virginia must refrain from shaving their legs or applying lotion for 24 hours. They should attend their appointment dressed in loose-fitting clothes. During the procedure at our vein treatment center, patients start out lying on his or her back. The legs will be slightly elevated and cleaned with alcohol before Dr. Mountcastle makes the injections, the number of which will depend largely on the size of the veins that are in need of treatment.
Anesthesia is not required as part of sclerotherapy, therefore patients are awake and alert during the procedure. Some patients might feel a slight itching or burning sensation as the injections are made. After the ultra-thin needle is withdrawn, compression is immediately applied to the leg, which assists in dispersing the medication that causes the veins to become irritated and eventually flatten. The blood inside the veins is released and reabsorbed by the body. The appearance of the veins will fade in the following weeks and months, although most patients require 2-5 treatments to see optimal results.
Side effects of sclerotherapy usually are mild and may include some redness, bruising, and itching. The skin around the injection sites may darken temporarily but typically improves within a few days or weeks. Patients must wear compression stockings for at least a week following the procedure at the vein treatment center. They should also avoid sun exposure during the first several days, which can cause dark spots to appear. It is important to resume walking soon after treatment to help prevent the formation of blood clots.
What type of results are expected?
The long-lasting results of sclerotherapy should become evident following each procedure. Patience is key as it may take up to six weeks for spider veins to be reabsorbed by the body, and between three and four months for larger varicose veins to do the same. Studies have shown that between 50 and 80 percent of patients reported that the procedure successfully treated their veins. However, it is important to remember that other veins in the legs can become visible in the future and that sclerotherapy likely can be used to treat those as well.
Do you still have questions?
There is no need to keep your legs covered all summer long. Sclerotherapy works effectively to eliminate the appearance of spider and varicose veins so that you can feel more confident while wearing the latest fashions. We invite men and women in Northern Virginia to contact Mountcastle Vein Clinic in Ashburn, VA, and schedule an appointment with double board-certified plastic surgeon and medical director, Dr. Timothy Mountcastle, to learn more about how this exciting treatment can assist you.