Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure whereby a chemical, the sclerosant, is injected into a vein to entirely obliterate it. The sclerosant damages the innermost lining of the vessel (the endothelium), resulting in a clot that blocks the blood circulation in the vein beyond. Veins carry unoxygenated blood from the peripheral tissues back to the heart. Since the venous blood pressure in the veins is low, the blood is pumped by forward by contractions of the heart. To prevent back-flow, most veins have valves that only allow blood only to flow in the direction of the heart. When these valves become incompetent, veins become enlarged and bulging (varicose). Smaller veins that feed these varicose veins can also become enlarged and appear as red or blue spider veins in the skin. Varicose veins can lead to a chronic swelling condition of the leg called venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency predisposes a person to leg swelling, blood clots, and skin ulceration. Even more frequently, damaged veins are manifested as unsightly spider veins. The destruction of these types of veins can be desirable both medically and cosmetically.
- During the sclerotherapy procedure, a health care professional injects chemicals into smaller veins, which damage the inner lining and produce a clot. As the clot is reabsorbed, the vessel is permanently obliterated.
- The choice of the chemical sclerosing agent and its physical form depend on the size of the vessel to be treated.
- Treatment of the correct vessels can improve the symptoms of venous insufficiency.
- Small superficial vessels are often destroyed for cosmetic reasons.