U.S. Dermatology Partners South Hulen in Fort Worth, TX offers a range of dermatologic services in a state-of-the-art, patient-focused practice. With our team of board-certified dermatologists and healthcare providers, you can rest assured you’ll always feel right at home in our office, and our dermatologic services will exceed your highest expectations. According to Dr. James McCarty, “We are always committed to using the most innovative treatment solutions and making time to learn the latest techniques and technologies, but sometimes, the right solution is the one we’ve relied on for decades. That’s the case with sclerotherapy, a vein treatment option that has been in use since the 1930s.” In this blog, Dr. McCarty takes time to answer some of the questions patients ask most often about sclerotherapy.
What is Sclerotherapy?
As Dr. McCarty stated above, sclerotherapy is a vein treatment that has been used for nearly a century to eliminate small to medium-sized veins in the legs. Typically performed by a board-certified dermatologist, sclerotherapy is an outpatient procedure, meaning you will visit us for in-office treatment sessions. Then, you can return to your daily routine.
Who is a Good Candidate for Sclerotherapy?
Any patient who wants to reduce the visibility of veins in the legs is likely a good candidate for sclerotherapy vein treatment. However, there are some situations where we may not recommend sclerotherapy, including:
- Expecting mothers
- Women taking hormonal contraceptives
- Those with a history of blood clots will be considered on an individual basis
What Happens Before Sclerotherapy?
Dr. McCarty says, “I schedule consultations with my patients before I recommend any treatment, but for sclerotherapy, this consultation is especially important since it will help us ensure that vein therapy is the right option and minimize potential risks.” The consultation visit will include a thorough review of your individual and family medical history. Additionally, we will discuss symptoms that may precede valve failure and vein visibility.
If we determine that sclerotherapy may be a good option for you, we’ll schedule an appointment with the ultrasound technician. The ultrasound allows us to clearly see the valves that have failed leading to the visible veins that need to be eliminated. According to Dr. McCarty, “When patients visit us for treatment of varicose veins, what we’re seeing on the skin is just the tip of a potentially very deep iceberg. The ultrasound allows us to see exactly where the valve failed and how the blood flow has been misdirected, which causes vein visibility in the leg.”
Next, the technician creates thorough reports that allow us to plan for the most effective treatment to ensure patients have great, long lasting results. Finally, we’ll schedule a series of vein therapy treatment sessions.
What Happens During Treatment?
Elimination of veins with damaged valves and removal of the visible veins is performed over the course of several appointments. During each session, we will complete as much repair as possible within 30 minutes. If you have visible veining on both legs, sessions will alternate between them until the process is complete. The sclerotherapy treatment itself involves injecting a polidocanol sclerosant solution into the varicose veins. According to Dr. McCarty, “We previously used saline solutions, but patients found this treatment more uncomfortable. With polidocanol and the smaller needles, patients have little to no discomfort associated with sclerotherapy treatment. Patients may experience minor, temporary pain if a nerve is irritated during the treatment process, but any discomfort typically diminishes quickly.”
What Happens After Sclerotherapy?
Following a sclerotherapy session, most patients make a quick recovery with little to no discomfort. According to Dr. McCarty, “A few minutes after we complete the sclerotherapy injections, we’ll ask patients to get up and walk around for us. This helps us monitor the treated area for potential concerns. If everything looks good, we’ll cover the leg in bandages and compression stockings. You’ll need to wear these compression garments for the rest of the day and overnight following treatment. Following the first night, you should continue to wear your compression garments only during the day.” In addition to wearing your compression garments, for best results you’ll want to avoid:
- Strenuous exercise for at least two days
- Exposure to direct sunlight
- Swimming, soaking in a hot tub, or visiting the sauna
- Taking very hot showers (Dr. McCarty will provide you with personalized aftercare instruction regarding bathing and showering)
- Using anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen (you may take acetaminophen, Tylenol, for discomfort)
Are there Side Effects?
Most people have little to no downtime after sclerotherapy, and there are few, typically mild, side effects. For a few days after your session, you may notice tenderness, swelling, and itching in the treatment area. The treatment area may be specked with raised, red bumps where the needle punctured the skin. If you are prone to bruising, you may notice some bruises in the days immediately following treatment. According to Dr. McCarty, “There are some more serious complications following sclerotherapy that may indicate a need for further treatment, but these are very rare. In decades using this treatment technique, I’ve only seen a few minor issues due to allergic response and one skin ulceration that healed well.”
How Long Does it Take for Me to See Results?
It can take six to eight weeks to see the full results of sclerotherapy, so the dermatologist won’t recommend any retreatment until after this two-month window. Dr. McCarty says, “To improve results, we always encourage patients to follow aftercare instructions carefully, especially wearing compression garments for at least one week, preferably two. Sclerotherapy works by irritating the inside of the veins, but the vein walls need pressure to stick together and stay closed to stop blood flow in the diseased vein. Compression is essential to achieve optimal results.”
Are My Results Permanent?
After the vein is removed, it will not come back. However, those who previously had varicose veins on the legs may be more likely to develop these types of visible veins in the future. Following sclerotherapy, people do not develop veins as quickly. Because we remove the veins with failed valves that created the varicose vein system, pressure is taken off of the remaining healthy veins and natural blood flow is restored. This decreases the chances for future vein failure, so in addition to looking and feeling better after vein therapy, sclerotherapy is also a preventive measure to reduce your continued risk for new vein development.
Will My Insurance Cover Sclerotherapy?
No. Sclerotherapy is considered a cosmetic treatment and is not covered by insurance. However, in specific cases, procedures to repair more advanced damaged valve systems may be covered by insurance plans, if you are displaying symptoms that indicate a medical need for these treatments. During your consultation and ultrasound visits, we’ll be screening for these conditions, so make sure you provide as much detail as possible.
To make sclerotherapy more affordable, we can spread treatment out over several weeks or months to fit your budget. According to Dr. McCarty, “There are no time constraints with sclerotherapy. We can complete the process as quickly or slowly as you like. If you want to spread payment for treatments out, we can take longer breaks between sessions. If you want to complete the process as quickly as possible, we can accommodate your schedule. It’s really very flexible, and the amount of time doesn’t impact treatment outcomes.”
How do I Get Started?
If you’re interested in sclerotherapy at U.S. Dermatology Partners South Hulen in Fort Worth, Dr. McCarty and the rest of our team would be happy to hear from you. We make it easy to set up your first appointment with our team. Simply fill out our online form. Then, our medical assistant will be in touch to answer your questions and schedule your visit to our Fort Worth practice. He will walk you through any preparatory steps you need to take.