Are you ready to banish spider veins? Spider veins may appear as clusters of red, blue, or purple veins on the thighs, calves, or ankles—and they sometimes cause bothersome symptoms, such as aching, burning, swelling, and night cramps. Sclerotherapy is a relatively simple procedure that can help improve the appearance of your legs. During sclerotherapy treatment, spider veins are injected with a sclerosing solution that causes them to collapse and fade from view.

Although sclerotherapy can enhance your appearance, it is unrealistic to expect that every affected vein will disappear completely as a result of treatment. The procedure treats veins that are currently visible, but it does not prevent new veins from surfacing in the future. Be sure to discuss your expectations with your doctor before you decide to have sclerotherapy.

Planning and recovery

During your initial consultation, your doctor will examine your legs and identify areas affected by spider veins or other problems. Your doctor will also check for signs of more serious deep vein problems.

If any problems are discovered, you will be referred to a vascular surgeon who specializes in varicose veins for further evaluation. Treatment for larger problems must be resolved before treatment of surface veins with sclerotherapy can be done successfully.

Sclerotherapy requires no anesthesia and is usually performed in a doctor’s office. A typical sclerotherapy session lasts about 15 to 45 minutes.

During your treatment session, the skin over your spider veins will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. Your doctor or nurse will inject the sclerosing agent into the affected veins—you may receive anywhere from 5 to 40 injections per treatment session. Although you will feel small needle sticks, and possibly a mild burning sensation, the pain is usually minimal. Please note that several treatments are usually required to get the best results.

Recovery after sclerotherapy

You will have cotton balls and compression tape applied to the affected area following treatment. Your doctor may also prescribe tight-fitting compression stockings to guard against blood clots and promote healing. Keep in mind, the veins in your legs will look worse before they begin to look better. Your legs may be bruised or slightly discolored for some weeks afterward. In some cases, irregularities with pigmentation (brownish splotches) may take months or up to a year to completely fade.

Minimally invasive treatment that closes off varicose and spider veins

Sclerotherapy is a nonsurgical procedure to treat varicose and spider veins. These conditions affect 20 percent of U.S. adults and, though mostly a cosmetic issue, can be painful or a sign of more serious problems. You may be a good candidate if other treatments haven’t worked or if your case is particularly severe.

Sclerotherapy is one of many proven treatments available from our Vein Program. Our doctors will work with you to relieve pain, prevent complications, and improve your appearance by creating a customized treatment plan for your varicose or spider veins.

What to expect from sclerotherapy

Your doctor will clean the area in which the varicose or spider veins are located. The doctor will inject each vein with a solution that irritates it and causes it to swell shut. This blocks blood from being able to enter the vein. Over time, the vein will turn into scar tissue and fade away.

The procedure usually takes about a half hour, though it depends on the number of veins being treated. Your doctor will ask you to walk around afterward to help prevent the formation of blood clots. You should be able to resume your normal activities the same day or the day after the procedure.

Conditions

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition in which the veins in the legs malfunction and allow blood to leak backward, causing blood to pool in the legs and putting increased pressure on the veins.

Superficial thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis is a blood clot near the surface of the skin that causes inflammation of the vein, leading to redness and swelling.

Varicose & spider veins

Varicose and spider veins occur when the veins near the surface of the skin become enlarged and twisted.

Additional information

Vein Program

Improve your appearance, decrease pain, and prevent serious complications caused by varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and other venous conditions with minimally invasive treatment from our vascular team.

Our locations

Distance from Change locationEnter your location

MedStar Health: Orthopedics at McLean

6858 Old Dominion Dr.
Ste. 200
McLean, VA 22101

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20007

Frequently asked questions

  • How much do sclerotherapy treatments cost?

    The costs for sclerotherapy will vary based on your specific needs. Most insurance plans do not cover cosmetic procedures. When you come in for your consultation visit, we’ll be better able to discuss fees in detail with you. Our staff will also review the financing options available.

  • Is sclerotherapy treatment safe for new moms?

    You may be advised to postpone sclerotherapy if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Spider veins that appear during pregnancy often disappear on their own within three months after your baby is born, so it’s best to wait. Also, nursing mothers are advised to wait until they have stopped breastfeeding, because it’s not known how sclerosing solutions may affect breast milk.

  • What are the risks of sclerotherapy?

    Although serious medical complications from sclerotherapy are extremely rare when the procedure is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, they can occur. Risks include blood clots in the veins, severe inflammation, allergic reaction to the sclerosing solution, and skin injury that could leave a small scar.

  • How should I prepare for the procedure?

    Your doctor will provide instructions on how to prepare for your treatment. Follow these instructions carefully to help the procedure go more smoothly. You should not apply any type of moisturizer, sunscreen, or oil to your legs on the day of your procedure. You may want to bring shorts to wear during the injections and physician-prescribed compression stockings to wear after your treatment session.

  • Will I need more than one sclerotherapy session?

    Your veins will appear lighter after each sclerotherapy session. Two or more sessions are usually needed to achieve the best results. Also keep in mind, as time passes you may decide to have further sclerotherapy to treat new spider veins that appear.

Read our Cardiovascular Performance & Outcomes Booklet

Ask MHVI

Have questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net.