Also known as sclerotherapy and laser vein treatment
The most common spider vein treamtent involves the injection of a solution into each affected vein, causing the vein to collapse and fade over time.
- Sclerotherapy involves injections of a solution into the unwanted veins using a fine needle. The solution (made with substances such as saline or glycerin) causes the lining of the veins to swell and stick together. This simple, effective varicose and spider vein treatment involves minimal discomfort and has been in use for over a hundred years.
- Laser vein therapy, which is most effective on the face and small spider veins, causes the veins to collapse by heating up the pigment in the blood that is concentrated in the veins. Treatments create mild discomfort with each pulse of the laser and can be performed without anesthetic.
- 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
In some women, spider veins—those small clusters of red, blue or purple veins that appear on the thighs, calves and ankles—become noticeable at a young age. For others, the veins may not become obvious until much later.
Causes of spider veins
A number of factors may contribute to the development of spider veins in the legs, including:
- Hormonal shifts
- Occupations or activities that require prolonged sitting or standing
- Weight fluctuation
Spider vein treatment is a good option if you:
- Are bothered by spider veins anywhere on your body
- Are committed to following your plastic surgeon’s prescribed course of treatment
- Have a positive outlook and realistic goals for your spider vein treatment
- You avoid wearing shorts or swimming apparel because you don’t want others to see your spider veins.
- 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.
Spider vein treatment costs may include:
- Post-treatment garments
- Surgeon’s fee
Most health insurance plans will not cover spider vein treatment, related complications or another procedure to revise the appearance of your legs. You must carefully review your health insurance policy.
When choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area for spider vein treatment, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the procedure.
During your spider vein treatment consultation be prepared to discuss:
- Any problems you may have had in the area to be treated, such as pain or previous injuries
- Any surgical procedures that have been performed near the area to be treated, including any previous vein treatments
- Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Medical conditions, family history, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Your goals
Your plastic surgeon will also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Examine your veins in detail
- Discuss likely outcomes of spider vein treatment and any risks or potential complications
- Discuss your options
- Recommend a course of treatment
If leg veins are the problem, your surgeon may examine you for signs of more serious “deep vein” problems, as well as for larger, varicose veins. These conditions are often identified by swelling, sores or skin changes at the ankle.
If more serious vascular problems are identified, your surgeon may refer you to a different specialist for further evaluation and possible treatment.
Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon questions. To help, we have prepared a checklist of questions to ask during your spider vein treatment consultation.
It’s very important to understand all aspects of your spider vein treatment. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of pre-treatment stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.
Preparing for Your Procedure
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.
Treatments take approximately 30 minutes to one hour to complete, depending on the number of areas being addressed.
Topical anesthetic can be used for enhanced patient comfort.
These are outpatient treatments which may be performed in the physician’s office.
Your spider vein treatment procedure may include the following steps:
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.
The common method of treating spider veins in the legs and ankles is called sclerotherapy.
During treatment, a sclerosing solution is injected into the affected veins. The injection irritates the inside of the vein, and over time the vein will collapse and fade from view.
If you have multiple spider veins, the treatment will require multiple injections to collapse all the veins.
Bright light and magnification may be used to ensure maximum precision while injecting the sclerosing solution.
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
Spider veins may also be treated with a laser.
In this method, an intense beam of light is directed at the spider vein, which obliterates it through the skin.
More than one laser session may be needed to obtain the desired results. Sometimes, laser therapy is used in combination with sclerotherapy.
After treatment, the area may be dressed with compressive tape or stockings, or an elastic Ace wrap for a period of time.
The veined area often looks a bit bruised initially, and the color slowly fades over the course of a few weeks.
Some people can have a bit of brownish discoloration (hyperpigmentation) occur to the area during the healing process. This hyperpigmentation fades as well, but may take months.
Patients can return to work immediately after vein treatment. They will need to avoid exercise or strenuous activity for approximately one week so that treated veins remain collapsed. After vein treatments on the legs, the patient may need to wear support stockings for one or more weeks to maintain pressure on the treated veins. It is important to avoid sun exposure until inflammation has subsided, which could be several days to a week after treatment.
- After sclerotherapy the treated veins clear away within three weeks to six months.
- After laser vein therapy treated spider veins clear away in about a month.
Both treatments may need to be repeated to completely clear away the unwanted veins.
The decision to have spider vein treatment is extremely personal. You will have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications of spider vein treatment are acceptable.
You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks.
The risks include:
- Swelling and bruising
- Change in skin sensation
- Persistent pain
These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It’s important that you address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon.
Use this checklist as a guide during your spider vein treatment consultation:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Were you trained specifically in the field of plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- How many procedures of this type have you performed?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my spider vein treatment?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for each procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
Veins that resemble tiny, branch-like shapes in a cartwheel pattern, often seen on the outer thigh.
Spider vein treatment in which the vessels are cauterized.
An intense beam of light passed over the leg to eliminate spider veins.
An intense beam of light directed at the spider vein, which obliterates it through the skin.
Larger, darker leg veins that tend to bulge slightly, but are not severe enough to require surgical treatment.
Sclerosing solution injected into a vein, causing it to collapse and fade from view.
Simple linear veins
Veins which appear as thin, separate lines, and are commonly seen on the inner knee or on the face.
A group of veins radiating outward from a dark central point.
Small clusters of red, blue or purple veins that appear in the skin on the thighs, calves and ankles.
Special stockings that compress your legs, typically used for varicose veins and post-surgical conditions.
A device that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs and systems within the body.
Abnormally swollen or dilated veins.