For men as well as women, the presence of unsightly spider veins on the legs or on the face can ruin the appearance of the most well-cared for body, and add years to one’s apparent age. The good news is that these fine red and blue veins can be addressed with the latest medical laser therapy and/or sclerotherapy.
Precise laser energy is delivered to the targeted vessel through a special handpiece in a brief pulse that usually creates no skin irritation. Before therapy, each patient receives a personal consultation during which the spider veins are identified and the treatment outlined. Pulses of laser energy are then delivered to each vessel, coagulating the blood with little or no discomfort. Treatments usually take several minutes, depending upon the number of vessels treated and their location. There is usually no downtime and patients can return to their daily routine without interruption.Over the next several weeks the body is allowed to resorb the vessel. Occasionally a retreatment at four weeks is necessary for maximum long-term resolution.
Frequently Asked Questions
Spider Veins are like varicose veins but smaller. They begin as tiny capillaries and appear as blue or red squiggles. They are small red, blue or purple veins that commonly appear on the surface of the thighs, calves and ankles. It’s estimated that at least one third of the adult female population is troubled with this common problem. People often seek treatment for spider veins because of cosmetic concern. However, it is also common for spider veins to cause symptoms, such as aching, heaviness, itching and night cramps.
Spider veins may be isolated or associated with “feeder” veins. They can also be associated with larger underlying varicose veins.
Spider veins usually take on one of three forms:
- They may appear in a spider shape with a group of veins radiating outward from a central point.
- They may appear in a pattern that resembles branches on a tree
- They may be in a linear pattern that appear as thin separate lines.
Certain factors contribute to the development of spider veins, including heredity, pregnancy, hormonal factors, weight gain, occupations or activities that require prolonged sitting or standing, and trauma.
The real cause of spider veins is not known but they are more prominent in obese individuals, females, individuals who are on their feet for prolonged periods, minor trauma, pregnancy and perhaps use of contraceptives. There may be a familial component to these veins. In general, any condition that will increase pressure in the veins, can lead to spider veins.
The most important thing to know is that these veins are entirely of a cosmetic concern. There are several options in treating spider veins. The most common is sclerotherapy, laser and camouflage. Surgery is never used to treat spider veins.
Laser treatment is a safe, effective option for spider veins. It does not involve any injection and takes a few minutes. Repeat sessions may be required in some cases. The laser causes the blood in the vein to disappear.
Laser Treatment for Spider Veins
During laser treatment, intense light is directed to the veins, eliminating them permanently. Lasers are especially suited to treat small spider veins when a needle cannot be used.Bruising usually occurs in the area treated after laser treatments and lasts for a few weeks. The cost of laser treatment for spider veins is usually higher compared to sclerotherapy.
Sclerotherapy involves injection of a sterile solution (called a sclerosing solution) into the small veins using a very fine, thin needle. This solution irritates the vein lining causing it to undergo fibrosis and eventually disappear. Multiple veins can be injected at each session. The sclerosing solution used may be either hypertonic saline or sodium tetradecylsulfate.
Sclerotherapy for Spider Veins
A common form of treatment for spider veins is sclerotherapy. This is an in-office procedure where veins are injected with a solution, using small needles, which causes them to collapse and fade from view. The procedure typically improves not only the cosmetic appearance but associated symptoms as well. A few sessions may be required to obtain maximum benefit. During sclerotherapy, the affected leg is elevated to drain blood, and the sclerosant is injected into the spider vein. The procedure normally takes 5 to 30 minutes, depending on how many spider veins are treated. This form of spider vein treatment may be painful, and the chemical (sclerosant) that is injected can cause a feeling of burning or cramping for a few minutes in the area where the shot was given. You may need repeated sessions and many injections per session depending on the extent of the spider veins and type of sclerosant used.
Spider veins have no function and removing does no harm. The only reason they are removed is because of their unsightly cosmetic.
Sclerotherapy has been round for 20 years and is a safe procedure. The procedure involves the use of multiple injections to destroy the vein. Lasers on the other hand do not require needles and are currently in vogue. Laser therapy is also slightly more expensive than sclerotherapy. Laser therapy is fast becoming the procedure of choice.
Almost anyone with unwanted spider veins can be treated, except women who are pregnant or nursing. Other relative contraindications include those with skin infections, uncontrolled diabetes, fever, history of deep vein thrombosis, anticoagulant therapy those patients taking corticosteroids.
No extensive preparation is required before the procedure. It is recommended that one stop smoking and stop taking aspirin a few day before the procedure. Any patient on a blood thinker is not a candidate for sclerotherapy.
There is some mild pain which can easily be overcome with Tylenol. The injected site will appear bruised and swollen for a few days. Continual wearing of the ace bandaged will relieved the swelling and pain. The bruising usually disappears in 2-3 weeks. One will have no problem with walking. After the first 2 days, most patients can resume their normal activities.
Generally, most individuals have multiple spider veins and only up to 15-20 injections can be done at seating. Each treatment session lasts up to 30 minutes. After the treatment, sterile dressings are placed over the injection site and the entire leg is covered with an ace bandage. The ace bandage is left on for 2-3 days until the patient returns to see the doctor. Most individual require 2-3 sessions the sessions are best done at weekly intervals. The interval between sessions does not affect the treated veins.
Spider veins have no symptoms and the major problem is cosmetic. Therefore, the surgery is strictly elective and can be done any time. Spider veins do tend to become more prominent during pregnancy and so it is best to wait until the pregnancy is over.
Although spider veins can develop during subsequent pregnancies, previously treated veins should not reoccur. Spider veins can be removed but new ones can always occur. Most people who have spider veins have a predisposition and despite treatment, new veins will appear in the coming years. There is no cure for spider veins.
Besides some stinging pain, sclerotherapy can rarely cause a few side effects. Allergic reactions are rare. A few individual may develop intense itching at the site of injection. If the chemical is injected outside the vein, profound discoloration and pain can occur.