Also known as sclerotherapy and laser vein treatment
Spider veins (not to be confused with varicose veins) are dilated or stretched blood vessels that have a branching pattern and are commonly found on the thigh, lower leg and occasionally on the face. Spider veins are progressive in nature and usually increase in number and visibility with age. Sclerotherapy and laser vein treatments are used to treat these vessels, erasing them from your skin.
When to Consider Spider Vein Treatment
- If you have visible veins on your legs or thighs that have a branching or weblike pattern
- If you have a pattern of branching veins on your face that you try to conceal
- If you feel that your spider veins are a sign of aging that you would like to eliminate
- Sclerotherapy and laser therapy are safe, time-proven procedures that cause little, if any discomfort.
- These therapies provide an overall improvement in the appearance of spider veins.
- There is no downtime. Patients can immediately resume work and almost all normal activities.
- Multiple treatments are usually necessary to remove the veins.
- Patients may be asked initially to wear support stockings to help keep treated veins closed and to reduce bruising.
- Bruising, color changes and small areas of scarring may occur where sclerotherapy or laser treatment has been performed.
These are the top three pros and cons to weigh when considering spider vein treatment. If you want to focus on what is unique to you, please consult with your aesthetic plastic surgeon.
Are you a good candidate for spider vein treatment?
The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider spider vein treatment:
- You are embarrassed by the prominent branching veins visible on your thighs and lower legs.
- You avoid wearing shorts or swimming apparel because you don’t want others to see your spider veins.
- The branching veins on your face are unsightly and you must use makeup to camouflage them.
- You are not pregnant and you do not have a history of blood clot formation.
If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.
Detailed Procedural Info
How is a spider vein treatment procedure performed?
Spider veins can be treated with sclerotherapy or with lasers. The complete removal of spider veins is not expected in the first treatment and multiple treatments are required for optimal results.
- Sclerotherapy is effective for medium-sized blood vessels (greater than three millimeters in diameter)
- A sclerosing solution is injected into the vein with a micro-needle which causes the vein to shrink, turn white (blanch) and then gradually disappear
- After the injection, compression stockings are recommended to compress the veins and maximize the chance of treatment success
- There is little if any discomfort when undergoing this procedure and there is no downtime
It is important to note that you are not a candidate for sclerotherapy if you are pregnant. Also, if you have a history of blood clots you may not be a candidate for this procedure.
Laser vein treatment
- Lasers are typically used to treat small to medium-sized blood vessels (one to three millimeters in diameter) that usually occur in the face
- During treatment, your eyes will be covered so that your corneas and retinas are protected from the laser.
- A handpiece is passed over your skin and the laser light is absorbed by the blood, causing the vessels to coagulate and be absorbed by the body.
- There may be some skin reddening, bruising, and blistering, but these side effects subside over a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
- There is little downtime; however, you will need to protect the area(s) treated from sun exposure.
What are my options?
Sclerotherapy has proven to be a very safe and popular nonsurgical cosmetic procedure for treating spider veins. In some cases, if spider veins are small and located around your ankle or on your face, laser treatment may be a good nonsurgical alternative to sclerotherapy.
Treatment options differ between spider and varicose veins. Varicose veins are often bulging or swelling and are normally darker in color and larger in size than spider veins. Varicose veins are not effectively treated with sclerotherapy or with lasers. Surgery is usually required for optimal varicose vein treatment.
Preparing for Your Procedure
How do I prepare for a spider vein treatment procedure?
Your surgeon will provide you with preoperative instructions and answer any questions that you may have.
In advance of your procedure, your surgeon will ask you to:
- Stop smoking before undergoing treatment to promote better healing.
- Avoid taking aspirin, certain anti-inflammatory drugs, and some herbal medications that can cause increased bleeding.
- Regardless of the type of procedure to be performed, hydration is very important before and after surgery for safe recovery.
Spider vein treatment is usually performed on an outpatient basis. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after treatment and to stay with you at least the first night following treatment.
What can I expect on the day of spider vein treatment?
Spider vein treatment is performed on an outpatient basis. Most spider vein treatment procedures take at least 30 minutes to one hour to complete but may take longer.
- Medications may be administered for your comfort during the procedure.
- Your surgeon will follow the plan discussed with you before treatment.
- After sclerotherapy you will wear compression stockings to maximize the chances of treatment success.
You will probably be permitted to go home after a short observation period.
Aftercare and Recovery
Usually there is no downtime after spider vein treatment. For most patients, full activity may be resumed immediately. After the procedure, you and your caregiver will receive detailed instructions about your post-treatment care, including information about:
Immediately after your spider vein treatment
After the procedure you will notice a reduction in your spider veins. If you undergo sclerotherapy, about fifty to seventy percent of the treated vessels will be permanently gone. With laser ablation, some veins may disappear after one treatment while others may take longer. With either treatment, multiple procedures are required for optimal results.
Spider vein treatments are performed with minimal discomfort. You may experience temporary skin discoloration, skin reddening, bruising, and occasionally blisters. These side effects subside over a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Contact your surgeon to find out if your pain, or any skin conditions, is normal or a sign of a problem.
Recovery time frame after spider vein treatment
Spider vein treatment requires little, if any, recovery. You will be able to resume work and almost all normal activities right away. You may be asked initially to wear support stockings to help keep treated veins closed and to reduce bruising. Direct sunlight should be avoided during the first few weeks following treatment.
It is vitally important that you follow all patient care instructions provided by your surgeon. This will include information about wearing compression garments and the level and type of activity that is safe.
How Long Will the Results Last?
More than one treatment is often required, since all the veins will not respond to the first treatment. Also, since spider veins are a progressive condition, you can expect new spider veins to form over time, which may require treatment every few years to maintain the improvement.
Maintain a relationship with your aesthetic plastic surgeon
For safety, as well as the most beautiful and healthy outcome, it’s important to return to your plastic surgeon’s office for follow-up evaluation at prescribed times and whenever you notice any changes in your treatment areas. Do not hesitate to contact your surgeon when you have any questions or concerns.
Limitations and Risks
Fortunately, significant complications from spider vein treatment are infrequent. Your specific risks for spider vein treatment will be discussed during your consultation.
All procedures have some degree of risk. Some of the potential complications include:
- Infection and bleeding
- Allergic reactions
- Damage to underlying structures
- Unsatisfactory results that may necessitate additional procedures
Other risks specific to spider vein treatment are outlined below:
- Skin discoloration
- Skin reddening or loss
You can help minimize certain risks by following the advice and instructions of your board-certified plastic surgeon, both before and after spider vein treatment.