Varicose Vein Treatment: Sclerotherapy

Anterior Tibialis Standing Stretch
Wendy Bumgardner © 2012
Varicose veins can happen to the nicest people. I am one of those people who inherited faulty valves in my leg veins and so, by age 40, I had ugly ropy veins on the front and back of my legs. While they were developing, they were itchy and uncomfortable, but for me that went away. Instead, I was just disgusted with the appearance and didn't want them to grow inevitably bigger.

Sclerotherapy Treatment

As a walker, I wanted to avoid any treatment that would interrupt my favorite activity, such as vein stripping surgery.
I learned about sclerotherapy, which is done in a doctor's office, and you are sent home with a prescription to walk at least 30 minutes a day throughout recovery.

How Sclerotherapy Works

The sclerotherapy solution is injected into all of the enlarged veins. The solution collapses the vein down and makes it stick together, stopping blood flow and beginning the process of having the body reabsorb the vein. The normal blood flow in the leg is rerouted through deeper veins. There is bruising and inflammation afterwards as the body begins to reabsorb the varicose veins.

The Hour of the Pincushion

For the procedure, I was worked on by the doctor and his assistant for an hour, each of them injecting one leg. I had no sedative or anesthetic. I am very tolerant of injections, and most of them were just little jabs. But at least 1 in 10 hurt or stung. After the injections were done, I was put into support hose and wrapped with elastic bandages and put on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
The walking allowed the solution to settle and also allowed observation in case of a rare allergic reaction or deep venous thrombosis (a deep blood clot).

The Day After

My legs felt bruised and it was painful to sit in a chair where pressure was placed on any spot that was injected. No anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen or naprosyn were allowed as they can also interfere with clotting.
The first 24 hours were the worst of it, but through it all you are supposed to walk for 30 minutes a day at least and I had no difficulty in walking. The patient wears the support hose continuously for 7 days.


At weekly follow-up visits, the doctor or assistant would use a needle to prick and then express the old pooled blood from the varicose veins, to prevent long-term discoloration or "iron staining." Like popping a blood blister, this was a somewhat painful and uncomfortable procedure.

The Weeks After

After the initial bruising, new areas of bruising can be expected to appear over the course of several weeks. You will see bruises heal and disappear and new ones appear.

For the Walker

Walking is part of the recovery, and I had no difficulty in walking for over 2 hours and over 7 miles just 4 days after the treatment. Two weeks after the procedure I walked a half-marathon. I felt no muscular weakness from the procedure. Weight lifting is not allowed for a week after the treatment.

More: 5 Facts About Veins and Exercise You Need to Know

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