Sclerotherapy on trial: does it hurt, does it work, is it worth it?
If you suffer from unsightly thread veins, you probably hate them. But you may also be in two minds about getting them treated. I certainly was.Will it hurt? Will it work? Is it worth it?After having two children, I hated the web of thread, or spider, veins that had appeared on both my legs around the knees and lower thighs in the wake of my pregnancies.
I run regularly so am lucky to have quite firm, toned legs, but the flush of red and purplish fine veins they display was enough to make me think twice about wearing shorts or skimpy summer skirts. And when a colleague asked me how I'd got a bruise - in fact a patch of clumped-up thread veins - I decided it was time to take action.
Great fitness moves to tone up your legs
I had always promised myself that I would not get my veins treated before I had finished having children, or before I was fit and within my target weight range. A big tick to both. I was ready.There are a number of options if you're a thread vein sufferer. You can put up with them, of course, try and disguise them with fake tan or make up, depending on where your veins lie, or opt for surgical intervention.I'd finished having children and wanted my legs back. I was ready to get rid of those hideous Eyesores. Time to seek expert advice.I booked a consultation with top vascular surgeon Mr Constantinos Kyriakides at The Private Clinic in London's Harley Street. A veteran of Embarrassing Bodies and other TV medical shows, Mr K, as they call him, is a world expert in his field, specialising in minimally invasive treatments. He is also extremely charming. Shame I had to expose my ghastly old lady legs to him, but if anyone could get them sorted out, he was the man.I was asked to rate the severity of my thread vein problem from 1-5. Difficult, but I opted for a 3. 'Was I right?' I asked Mr K. 'The rating is not so much about the clinical severity, but gives me an indication of how serious the thread veins are for you, psychologically as much as anything,' he explained.My consultation began with an ultrasound scan to establish whether there were any underlying varicose problems, which could have a bearing on the treatment. I was given the all-clear, followed by a full rundown of my options.
Varicose veins? Improve your circulationThere are essentially two ways of getting rid of thread veins. Location and severity have a bearing on which you are advised to choose.Option 1: laser therapy. A handheld laser is targeted on the relevant areas, causing the blood within them to coagulate; the blood is then diverted to veins deeper below the surface of the skin and the visual marks disappear. It can cause mild pain, but is generally used on facial veins and rosacea.Option 2: sclerotherapy, a series of injections to kill off the thread veins. Mr K advised this for my spider veins, saying he thought it would be the most effective therapy. I was happy to go with his recommendation, and booked in for my first session a week later.Within 20 minutes of that first treatment, I was walking away from The Private Clinic, legs wrapped in bandages and compression stockings to help prevent staining around the treatment area. Wow, I had no idea it would be so quick!So what happened? During sclerotherapy, a series of tiny injections are made into the offending veins, the syringe containing a solution that causes them to collapse and fade. The blood that caused the thread veins to be visible is gradually absorbed into your body and the thread veins disappear. Dots of blood appear on your legs where the injections are made, but Mr K wiped them all away quickly, and the treatment was not unpleasant. The injections do start to sting - rather like mild nettle stings - after a while, but the experience was extremely bearable.Mr K used metre after metre of gauze bandage to bind my legs from thigh to foot. 'I like to wrap very thoroughly,' he explained. 'It reduces the risk of staining.'Permanent brown stains are a danger if the blood is not absorbed properly. I had to keep the bandages and compression stockings on 24 hours a day for the next week to be on the safe side. It was an inconvenience I was prepared to put up with.As a result, though, it is definitely a treatment to plan for the colder months - those bandages would have felt hot during the summer, and would have looked odd too.When that first set of bandages came off, I was delighted. I could already see certain veins disappearing and others were fading. A last, my legs were starting to look the same age that I feel!Three treatments later (six weeks between each appointment) with less binding each time, Mr K decreed me finished. I couldn't be happier. My legs now no longer look older than me, I can happily go bare-legged without feeling self-conscious, and there is no scarring or staining.
Beauty treatments to tone up cellulite legsWill the veins come back? Over time, fresh thread veins may well develop, as my mother suffers and they are generally genetic, but they are likely to recur less severely and over a long timescale.Hopefully, though, not before I really am an old lady, so by then my legs will match my age. Would I undergo another treatment with My K if they return? Yes, definitely.Visit The Private Clinic, Harley Street, to find out more about thread vein treatments with Mr Constantinos Kyriakides.
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