Where Did Sclerotherapy Come From?

Woman at home with varicose veins. No one likes spider veins when they begin to show up on our calves and ankles. This is as true today as it was many many moons ago. Sclerotherapy is the easiest, most successful way to remove spider veins. It really became popular in the U.S. in the 1930s.

In April’s first blog, let’s see just how sclerotherapy was developed.

What Is Sclerotherapy?

The tern “sclerotherapy” has origins in the combination of two Greek terms. “Sklerosis” is the Greek word for hardening. You probably know it now as used with heart disease and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. “Therapeia” is the Greek term for treatment of a disease of disorder.

Put them together, with some adjustments over time, and you get sclerotherapy. This term today is used to describe the medical technique of injecting a solution into a vein for the purpose of closing it off and eliminating it.

This method of vein removal is only effective on small varicose veins and spider veins. The diameter should be 1mm or less. Otherwise, in larger veins, too much sclerosant (the injected material) must be used and this cannot remain in place in the vein long enough to create the irritation that causes the vein wall to collapse and the vein to close off.


It appears people have been annoyed by the presence of spider veins on their calves and ankles for a lot longer than you would assume. Way back in 460 BC, Hippocrates wrote of “introducing a slender instrument of iron” through multiple punctions into the veins. The goal was to induce vein thrombosis. You could think of this as the rugged start of sclerotherapy.

Fortunately, the hypodermic syringe was developed in 1845, as this greatly eased injecting stuff to get rid of spider veins. And lots of different things were tried. This included absolute alcohol (1840), ferric chloride (1851), iodine (1906), mercury (1920), sodium morrhuate (1930), sodium tetradecyl sulfate (1946), and polidocanol (1966).

Wow. Some of those items — uh, mercury — were a little edgy to say the least.

Fortunately, today Dr. Stevens uses the FDA-approved sclerosant, Asclera. We’ll get into that in April’s second blog. Until then, if you need to make an appointment, please call us at (805) 540-3333.

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