Spider veins are abnormal, small, dilated veins on the surface of the skin. Also known as telangiectasias, these small red or blue veins can be unsightly and can cause unpleasant sensations including burning, itching, heaviness, and swelling. They can also bleed spontaneously or from scratching or shaving.
Radiology Practitioner Assistant Shirley Yeary, RPA, has worked in the field for 27 years, and is currently seeing patients at the University of Minnesota Health Vascular Clinic. We asked her to tell us more about sclerotherapy, a treatment that can remove spider veins.
Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a solution through a very tiny needle directly into a spider vein. The solution closes these veins down and allows the body to reabsorb them naturally. The body re-routes blood flow from those spider veins into other vessels, and the treated veins slowly fade away, typically over several weeks.
“Patients are really happy after I’ve treated them,” Yeary said. “They feel better, their legs look better, and we’ve taken care of those abnormal blood vessels.”
The injections use a very small needle, and patients generally experience only mild discomfort. Patients can walk in and walk out with minimal disruption to their daily activities, and may return to work or their normal responsibilities the same day as the procedure. Yeary recommends that patients wear compression stockings for three days following sclerotherapy to ensure the best results.
Sclerotherapy is an option for almost anyone with spider veins. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not eligible for the procedure.
“Because we’re treating the superficial veins inside the skin, rather than veins deep inside the muscles or other tissues, it’s even safe for people with high blood pressure or circulation problems,” Yeary said.
“We work with a coordinated, specialized vascular team,” Yeary said. “Other hospitals refer their patients to us, because we offer an elite program.” Providers who offer this service at the Vascular Clinic include Yeary and Nurse Practitioner Lisa Long.
Even though spider vein sclerotherapy is considered a cosmetic treatment, many people do experience improvement in their symptoms following treatment. Sometimes, spider veins are related to a more significant underlying condition. Yeary will evaluate a patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam to determine whether additional care is needed. Yeary works with a multidisciplinary team of experienced vascular interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons who provide the full spectrum of state-of-the-art medical vein treatments if required. Referral to one of these specialists is an easy, seamless process.
Once patients have all of the information about their specific condition, and whether sclerotherapy is right for them, they can make an educated decision as to whether to move forward with the treatment. Treatment is easy and convenient to schedule and can often be performed at the time of initial consultation.