Sclerotherapy and laser vein therapy are two popular options for those who want to get rid of unsightly varicose veins. Both treatments offer their own unique set of benefits as well as disadvantages. Here's what you need to know about each treatment before you visit your doctor.
Sclerotherapy is a common solution for most varicose vein issues. This procedure involves an injection of hypertonic saline into the vein targeted for removal. As the sclerosant is injected, this causes inflammation in the linings of the vein.
This in turn causes the vein itself to swell and eventually seal shut, while other blood vessels take up the blood flow formerly handled by that vein. The targeted vein is eventually broken down and absorbed back into the body.
Your doctor will likely inject the sclerosant with the help of a catheter and ultrasound equipment, making the process as minimally invasive as possible. However, those with a high sensitivity to catheters and needles may find the procedure somewhat painful. Allergic reactions to the sclerosant aren't uncommon, ranging from mild to severe enough to warrant immediate medical attention.
Laser Vein Therapy
In contrast to sclerotherapy, laser vein therapy offers a more straightforward approach for removing varicose and spider veins. Instead of using sclerosant injections, your doctor will use a high-precision laser to close and eliminate veins. There are two types of laser vein treatments available:
- Simple laser treatment handles small varicose veins located close to the surface, as well as spider veins. The laser penetrates through the skin, allowing for non-invasive treatment of the targeted vein. Multiple treatment sessions are usually needed to remove clusters of small varicose and spider veins.
- Endovenous laser treatment is a somewhat more invasive process that, in some ways, mirrors sclerotherapy. During this process, your doctor will feed a thin laser fiber into the targeted vein via catheter. Laser energy from the small probe burns the inside of the vein, causing it to collapse and seal itself.
In most cases, the only tell-tale sign of treatment is a bit of light bruising. Your doctor may pursue endovenous treatment to cut off larger varicose veins before proceeding with surface treatments for smaller varicose and spider veins.
In addition to the benefits and drawbacks of each procedure, you should also consider the following:
- Cost – According to information gathered by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of spider vein treatment as of 2013 is $331. Costs may include the surgeon's fee, as well as any post-treatment equipment or garments used. Given the use of high-precision laser equipment, laser vein treatments often cost more than needle-based sclerotherapy.
- Comfort – Some patients may suffer extreme discomfort from needles, making the sclerotherapy process highly uncomfortable. In most cases, laser vein therapy can remove varicose veins without causing anything more than minor skin irritation.
- Recovery time – While both treatment options offer quick recovery times, you may want to consult with your doctor to see which treatment offers the greatest convenience. During recovery, you may have to wear compression stockings for a few weeks while avoiding vigorous exercise and frequent sun exposure.
Why Seek Treatment
Varicose veins are a surprisingly common problem for many American adults. Recent statistics show that approximately 45 percent of men and 55 percent of women suffer from some form of varicose veins. Although varicose veins rarely prove themselves a serious health risk, some adults may feel more self-conscious about their prominent appearance.
Armed with the information above, you'll find yourself more confident and informed about your choices for varicose vein treatment. After treatment, a change in dietary habits and increased exercise can help reduce your chances of developing new varicose veins. For more information, contact a specialist such as Niren Angle, MD.