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BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have varicose veins. It tells you about injections, a treatment used for varicose veins. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

Having injections into your varicose veins may make them disappear. Injections may also help with your symptoms such as aching.

Injections can have side effects. Your skin may look discoloured afterwards. This can take a while to go away.

Injections may not work as well as surgery for varicose veins. Varicose veins are more likely to come back after injections than after surgery.

What are they?

Injections close a varicose vein so blood can't flow through it. Other healthy veins will take over, so your blood will still flow normally.

Liquid injections

Your doctor injects a liquid chemical into each varicose vein. The chemical damages the lining of the vein and causes it to collapse inwards. A scar forms inside. This blocks off the vein, and the vein fades within a few weeks. You don't need a painkiller to numb the area where you're getting the injection. See More about injections for varicose veins.

Doctors call treatment with injections sclerotherapy.

In the UK, doctors use two chemicals for these injections:

  • Ethanolamine oleate

  • Sodium tetradecyl sulphate (brand name Fibro-Vein).

Injections tend to be used to treat veins that are left after surgery and to get rid of smaller veins (called thread veins). Injections might also be an option if you can't have surgery.

Foam injections

One newer type of injection is now sometimes being used. It involves mixing the chemical to close the vein with air and a chemical that froths to make a foam injection. Foam spreads more rapidly and widely through the veins than liquid. [25] The injections needs to be done while using an ultrasound scan to make sure the foam doesn't get into a deep vein. [55]

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is the organisation that advises the government about treatments. NICE says that ultrasound-guided foam injections for varicose veins should be available on the NHS. Evidence shows that foam injections work about as well as liquid injections or surgery to strip out the veins, in the short term. But there hasn't been much research to show how long the effects last. And there hasn't been much research to show how safe it is in the long term, and whether there are any long-lasting side effects. Your doctor should discuss all the risks and benefits with you before giving you this type of injection. [56]

You can talk to your doctor about how they plan to inject your varicose veins.

How can they help?

Injections are likely to help get rid of aching, and your legs will probably look better.

Last Updated: May 01, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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