What is sclerotherapy?

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Sclerotherapy: Overview

Sclerotherapy is a treatment to get rid of varicose veins and spider veins. A chemical called a sclerosant is injected into the vein. This causes the vein to close.

The procedure may cause some pain. The chemical may cause burning or cramping for a few minutes at the injection site.

The procedure may take about 15 to 60 minutes. It depends on how many veins are treated and how big they are. You should be able to walk on your own after the treatment.


Sclerotherapy is a nonsurgical treatment to get rid of varicose veins. A chemical called a sclerosant is injected into the varicose vein, causing it to close.

Sclerotherapy may be used to make spider veins and small varicose veins go away or become less visible. It is usually done only for cosmetic reasons because these types of varicose veins rarely cause symptoms or problems. It might be done along with other procedures to treat varicose veins.

How can you care for yourself after sclerotherapy?


  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to do low-impact exercise each day. This includes walking and bicycle riding.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Do not stand or sit for long periods.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. Your doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.

Other instructions

  • Wear compression bandages or stockings if your doctor recommends it. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear them.
  • You may shower after 48 hours after the procedure. Don't swim or take a bath until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Avoid exposing your legs to the sun for at least the first 2 weeks after the procedure.

How well does sclerotherapy for varicose veins work?

Sclerotherapy may reduce symptoms and improve the look of the skin. It seems to work in more than 70 out of 100 people. It might not work for up to 30 out of 100 people who have the procedure.

How do you prepare for sclerotherapy?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Plan to wear loose, comfortable clothes. You may want to bring shorts to wear during the procedure.
  • Don't use any lotion on your legs before the procedure.
  • You might want someone to drive you home after the procedure.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your procedure. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What are the risks of sclerotherapy?

The risks of sclerotherapy include:

  • Skin color changes along the treated vein.
  • New spider veins.
  • Itching, bruising, pain, and blistering where the veins were treated.
  • Scarring from ulcers or death of the tissue around the treated vein (skin or fat necrosis). This can happen if sclerosant is injected outside a vein or if sclerosant escapes through the wall of a weakened vein.
  • A mild or severe (anaphylactic) reaction to the sclerosant. (Severe reaction is very rare but can be life-threatening.)
  • Blood clots or damage in the deep vein system.

What can you expect as you recover from sclerotherapy?

For most people, sclerotherapy doesn't require any recovery period. After the treatment, you will likely be able to walk right away. Avoid strenuous exercise until your doctor says it's okay. This may be for 2 weeks. Walk every day for at least 10 minutes. Try not to sit or stand for long periods of time.

For the first 2 weeks after the procedure, avoid exposing your legs to the sun.

You'll probably have to wear compression bandages or stockings after the procedure. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear them. This may be at least 1 week.

After sclerotherapy: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You get open sores on your legs where the chemical was injected.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in the leg or groin.
    • A color change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin color.
  • You have problems with your vision or balance.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area of injection.
    • Pus draining from the area of injection.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

After schlerotherapy: Overview

The doctor injected a special chemical (sclerosant) into a vein. This chemical damaged and scarred the inside lining of the vein. This caused the vein to close.

After sclerotherapy to treat varicose veins or spider veins, your recovery will be short. You should be able to walk right away. But avoid strenuous activity until your doctor says it's okay.

You may wear compression bandages or stockings after the procedure. These will help keep pressure on the veins so the blood doesn't return when you stand up. Your doctor will tell you how long you need to wear the stockings.

What happens on the day of your sclerotherapy?

  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotion to your legs.
  • Do not shave your legs.

At the doctor's office or clinic

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The procedure may take about 15 to 60 minutes. How long it takes depends on how many veins are treated and how big they are.

Why is sclerotherapy done?

Sclerotherapy is used to treat:

  • Spider veins and small veins that aren't causing more serious problems.
  • Varicose veins that may or may not be causing symptoms.

It may be done on its own or as a follow-up to another procedure or surgery.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.