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Unwanted Leg Veins - Sclerotherapy

What is sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is the name given to the treatment of unsightly veins via injection. These veins are often found in the legs and appear as large twisted varicose type veins, medium sized blue veins and small red spider veins. These are a very common finding in women and have been found to be associated with family history, hormone replacement, the contraceptive pill, pregnancy and prolonged standing.

The legs have two systems of veins; the deep and the superficial. The deep veins lie deep within the legs and send blood directly back to the heart. The superficial veins lie on the outside of these and empty their blood into the deep veins. The flow of blood is in one direction because of one-way valves that lie within the veins. When these valves become damaged there is a backflow of blood. This creates pressure within the superficial veins. The body’s response to this pressure is to create new veins, which head to the surface and are seen as spider veins. If the damaged valves are in larger veins we see the formation of varicose veins.

Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a chemical, which causes the unwanted veins to collapse and encourages flow back in the correct direction. Medical strength IPL can also be used for very small, superficial collections of surface veins on the legs but is limited by the colour of the skin. It is not suitable for larger veins as the amount of heat generated near the surface of the skin can lead to burns. No cream, or topical therapy is proven to work against surface veins.

Is it safe? Are there any side effects?

Sclerotherapy is a common procedure performed in thousands of women every year with minimal adverse reactions. Serious reactions are particularly rare but the risk of severe reactions to the chemical agents does exist, as does the risk of deep vein thrombosis. In some cases before a treatment occurs an ultrasound of the leg veins is carried out to locate any large incompetent blood vessels. Any underlying large abnormality must be treated under ultrasound guidance before the spider veins can be treated. This not only reduces risk of deep clots but also improves the result of spider vein treatment.

Side effects are generally minimal, with only mild discomfort on injection. As the vein collapses it releases its blood pigment, which can leave a brown marking over the vein site. In the majority of cases this pigmentation fades over the next 6 months. There is a risk of permanency with this pigment however, although most women accept this risk, preferring pigment to unsightly veins. There is also a risk of ulceration at the injection site. This appears to be a rare occurrence that has no obvious cause associated with it. The ulcer requires appropriate wound care and usually resolves without permanent effect, however some scarring may occur. The final side effects are phenomena known as matting. This is the attempt of the body to seek out a new direction of flow by creating new spider veins. These are easily treated by further injections.

All risks of side effects are reduced by the use of appropriate pressure stockings for one week after the procedure, with no sun tanning or hot spas/baths or heavy exercise during this time.

How long will it last?

Once successfully treated the veins should stay collapsed. If the risk factors for vein formation persist, then new veins may form. For this reason most patients are extremely happy with their treatments.

What is the cost?

Sclerotherapy costs depend upon the number of areas to be treated. Each treatment performed involves maximal safe quantities of the sclerotherapy chemical per treatment. There is no cost for the compression bandages worn post treatment. These bandages apply even pressure to the legs throughout the healing stages and prevent the closed vein from re-opening, thus improving the results. Treatment of any large veins is partially covered by Medicare, however smaller veins are not. It is these veins that cosmetic physicians treat more commonly.

How is Argera different?

At ARGERA only the doctor performs vein treatments. She uses the best sclerotherapy agents on the market with the safest side effect profile. Dr Argie has been treating veins since 1998 and has a very controlled technique, which allows for the maximum pick up of veins per vial of sclerosant.

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