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What Is Foam Sclerotherapy?

Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sclerotherapy is a form of treatment for varicose veins in which a chemical solution is injected into the vein to break down abnormalities in the veins. Varicose veins occur when the blood vessels become swollen, resulting in puffy and bumpy veins that are visible on the surface of the skin, especially on the legs and face. Foam sclerotherapy is a specific type of the treatment that utilizes a foam, rather than a liquid, containing the active ingredients known as sclerosants that treat the abnormal veins. Some doctors feel that foam sclerotherapy is more effective because foam may be better able to attach to the walls of the blood vessels to treat the condition.

The main purpose for treating varicose veins is often cosmetic. Although varicose veins are not inherently dangerous on their own, they may cause certain symptoms that are likely to subside once sclerotherapy treatment is performed. Since the veins are swollen or otherwise abnormal, they may prevent blood from flowing properly through them and cause symptoms such as cramping, burning, swelling, or itching of the affected areas.

The procedure for foam sclerotherapy tends to be a basic outpatient procedure that takes approximately one hour or less to complete. A doctor, often one that specializes in treating varicose veins, elevates the legs or other area that is affected, and inserts a syringe into the vein that needs to be treated. The syringe injects the foam containing the sclerosants into the blood vessel, and irritates the vessel so it will eventually close and stop receiving blood through it. Depending on the size of the veins, they take anywhere from three weeks to four months for the veins to disappear or reduce in size and appearance.

Foam sclerotherapy is generally considered to be safe; however, there are certain side effects that may occur after the procedure. Common side effects that do not tend to require medical attention include bruising, soreness, redness, or itching at the areas that were injected with the syringe. Other more serious side effects may occur, such as air bubbles that form in the blood vessels, which may cause changes in vision, nausea or coughing. Blood clots are also another serious side effect that may develop after the procedure, resulting in symptoms like coughing up blood, tightness or pain in the chest, and dizziness. Allergic reactions to the sclerosant chemicals may also potentially occur, causing swelling, itching, or difficulty breathing. These conditions may be potentially life-threatening and immediate medical attention is generally recommended.

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