When’s the last time you wore shorts or short skirts without feeling self-conscious? If you’re a woman between the ages of 40 and 50, you’ve noticed the increase of those pesky spider-like purple-bluish veins blemishing your legs. Over 50% of the population is affected by unsightly varicose or spider veins. Age is just one contributing factor to spider vein development. Hormonal factors, genetics, pregnancy, injuries, and prolonged standing still also contribute to this cosmetic condition.
Many Vitamin-K based creams and gels claim to remove spider or varicose veins, but researchers have shown that topical remedies are not effective at penetrating the skin’s surface. Which treatment options offer optimal, long-lasting results? Sclerotherapy is an effective, scientifically-proven procedure to eliminate a vein’s appearance. “The gold standard of spider vein treatment is sclerotherapy,” says Dr. Steven Zimmet, President of the American Board of Phlebology, a non-profit group to provides certification to vein physicians in the US.
In sclerotherapy, a fine needle is inserted into the vein. A sclerosing agent is injected into the vein itself, causing the vein walls to shrink and collapse. Since veins vary in depth and thickness, the injection is customized according to each patient’s condition. Various sclerosants are used, including dextrose/saline, Sotradecol® and Asclera®. Dr. Zimmet does not recommend routine use of hypertonic saline as this causes significant burning. Performed in a doctor’s office, the outpatient procedure takes an average of 20 minutes and patients can resume normal activities the same day of treatment. According to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 572,863 sclerotherapy treatments were performed in 2010.
The procedure’s popularity may be due in part to its success rate. The Mayo Clinic for Medical Education and Research reports that sclerotherapy has an overall success rate of 50% to 80% in eliminating treated veins. Maximal clearing generally requires a few sessions, with results seen about one month after each treatment.