What is sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is a treatment for spider veins and small varicose veins in your legs. It involves injecting small doses of a chemical into your veins. The chemical irritates the lining of your veins, which causes them to shrink and eventually disappear. Your body redirects blood flow to other veins in your legs.

Sclerotherapy has some risks and potential complications. is only one method used to treat varicose veins. Discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you. 

Why is sclerotherapy performed? 

Your doctor may recommend sclerotherapy to eliminate or minimize spider veins and small varicose veins. Some people seek sclerotherapy for cosmetic reasons when their veins are protruding or unsightly. Others are seeking relief from discomfort or painful sensations, such as burning, aching, swelling, soreness and cramping.

Veins are blood vessels that carry blood from your body back to your heart. There are valves inside veins that help direct blood back to your heart. When the valves are damaged or weakened, blood can pool in your veins causing them to swell and weaken. This results in varicose and spider veins. 

Varicose veins can look blue, twisted and bulging, and feel uncomfortable. Spider veins are smaller, closer to your skin surface, and look like small, jagged lines or starbursts. They tend to cause less discomfort and bulging. 

Your doctor may only consider sclerotherapy for you if other treatment options with less risk of complications are ineffective. You may be able to prevent spider veins and varicose veins by exercising, losing weight, and wearing compression stockings. Ask your doctor about all of your preventive and treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on sclerotherapy. 

Who performs sclerotherapy?

The following specialists perform sclerotherapy:

  • Dermatologists specialize in the medical and surgical care of the skin, hair and nails.
  • Plastic surgeons specialize in correcting physical defects that affect a person's appearance or ability to function. 
  • Vascular surgeons specialize in surgical treatment of diseases and conditions of the lymphatic system and blood vessels outside the heart and brain.
  • Phlebologists specialize in diagnosing and treating vein conditions including varicose veins, spider veins, chronic venous insufficiency, and vein birth defects.
  • Interventional radiologists and vascular radiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases using radiation and other imaging technologies.

How is sclerotherapy performed?

Sclerotherapy is performed in a doctor’s office or outpatient surgery setting. It takes less than an hour and generally includes these steps:

  1. You can wear your own clothing, typically shorts so your legs are exposed.
  2. Your doctor examines your spider veins and varicose veins using a bright light and possibly a magnifying instrument. 
  3. Your doctor gives you one to three injections in each spider vein or varicose vein that requires treatment. The injections contain either a saline (salt) solution or a chemical. These substances irritate your veins, which eventually scar and shrink. The injections may sting or cause minor cramping for a minute or two.
  4. Your care team will provide you with compression stockings to wear for up to two weeks after your procedure. The compression stockings stabilize your veins and minimize swelling.

Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation is important to both you and your care team. Sclerotherapy generally causes minimal and temporary pain, but it can be uncomfortable. Take a few long, deep breaths to help yourself relax. Tell your care team if any discomfort does not pass quickly. Increased pain may be a sign that the solution has leaked outside your veins.

What are the risks and potential complications of sclerotherapy?  

Any procedure involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or throughout your recovery. Risks and potential complications of sclerotherapy include: