Although not entirely risk free, less invasive, non-surgical treatments cause minimal disruption to the patient and require no general anesthesia or hospitalization. In addition, most non-surgical procedures can be performed at the dermatologist’s office or as an outpatient at your local hospital.Sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is a widely used outpatient procedure for the treatment of small to medium-sized varicose veins. Your family practitioner or practice dermatologist can perform sclerotherapy. No sedation is required. In most cases, several treatment sessions are necessary to achieve the desired effect.
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a chemical solution called a sclerosing agent such as Sotradecol® (sodium tetradecyl sulfate) into the blood vessel, using a very fine needle. The chemical, which is harmless and eventually absorbed into the body, causes scar tissue that closes the veins and forces the blood to re-route to undamaged, healthier veins.
Immediately following treatment, the patient may be advised to wear elastic-stockings or compression bandages to reduce bruising and swelling.
Sclerotherapy and the Pill. Instances of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and fatal thrombo-embolism have been reported in women taking contraceptive pills while receiving sclerotherapy treatment.
Risks Associated with Sclerotherapy
The risks associated with sclerotherapy depend on the strength of the chemical solution injected, the size of the blood vessel, its location, and the degree of existing damage to the vein being treated.
In most cases, the procedure cannot permanently eliminate varicose or spider veins. Reports estimate that as many as 65 percent of those who receive the treatment are likely to experience a recurrence of varicose veins within five years of treatment.
The risks of sclerotherapy include:
allergic reactions to certain sclerosing solutions
bleeding sores resulting in ulceration
skin discoloration (sometimes permanent)
brown spots at the injection site
permanent small scars
reopening of an injected vein that is not completely eliminated
possible appearance of a new vein near the site of the injection.
Instead of using a chemical liquid solution, foam sclerotherapy uses a foam sclerosing agent to scar the varicose veins. Because foam has a greater surface area than liquid, it is able to adhere to the vein walls more effectively and cause faster “shrinkage” of the damaged veins.
Alternative Medicines and Herbal Supplements. Today, alternative, innovative therapies, including the use of herbs, are becoming increasingly popular. A number of current clinical trials into the efficacy of herbs as an alternative treatment for varicose veins support their use as a treatment.
Horse Chestnut Seed Extract
Horse chestnut seed extract contains the active ingredient escin, (also known as aescin). It also contains escinol, an ingredient similar to escin but less potent. Although horse chestnut seed extract is not exactly the same as pure escin, it does function in a similar way.
Marketed under brand names such as Venastat® and Reparil®, horse chestnut seed extract is established in Europe as an alternative remedy for venous insufficiency and, more specifically, for the treatment of varicose veins.
Daflon is very similar to escin and is a combination of the bioflavanoids diosmin (ninety percent) and hesperidin (ten percent). Diosmin and hesperidin are similar natural substances that can be found in the rind of certain citrus fruits.
In clinical trials, Daflon has been effective in the treatment of venous insufficiency. Studies indicate that Daflon helps reduce swelling of the ankle and the sensations of “heaviness” and “burning” commonly associated with varicose veins.
Daflon has proven more effective, in clinical trials, than the use of diosmin alone. Daflon, like escin, also appears to be generally well tolerated.
A number of recent studies have reported the benefits of ginkgo biloba for the treatment of cardiovascular and circulatory problems, such as varicose veins.
In clinical trials, ginkgo biloba has been seen to improve circulation in the extremities of the body, decrease swelling in the limbs, and reduce the blockage of blood vessels that typically causes varicose veins.
Ginkgo biloba has also been reported to increase blood flow through the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, thus increasing metabolic efficiency and boosting oxygen levels in the brain. Ginkgo biloba is a powerful antioxidant that can protect the entire cardiovascular system.
Ruscus Aculeatus (Butcher’s Broom)
Studies have shown that a combination of Ruscus aculeatus and hesperidin may improve the tone of varicose vein walls, encourage blood flow, and reduce the symptoms of poor blood circulation, such as swelling and constriction of the blood vessel walls.
While the results of a limited number of uncontrolled trials suggest that pregnant women taking butcher’s broom daily for the treatment of venous insufficiency suffered no adverse side effects nor were any indications of post-birth damage to their babies evident, the data regarding the use of Ruscus aculeatus during pregnancy remains inconclusive.
Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kolais)
Centella asiatica is a useful herb for treating varicose veins because it strengthens the connective tissue around the veins and promotes blood flow.
Other herbs and natural medicines that may help strengthen blood vessel walls and improve the circulation of the blood include:
Allium sativum (garlic)
Zingiber officinalis (ginger)
Capsicum frutescens (cayenne)
Arctium lappa (burdock)
Zanthoxylum americanum (prickly ash)
bromelain (a substance found in pineapples)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion)
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape)
Silybum marianum (milk thistle)
grape seed extract.
Astringent herbs used for treating varicose veins include Quercus alba (white oak bark), Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) and Calendula officinalis (commonly referred to as calendula).