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Spider Vein Removal

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Spider veins, or spider nevi, are those tiny red, blue, or purple blood vessels that resemble a spider web and often crop up on the face, neck, upper chest, arms, thigh, and lower leg as we age. They are more common in women, and while their exact cause is unknown, the tendency for spider veins appears to be hereditary.

Spider veins are related to abnormal blood flow in the affected veins, and any activity or condition that puts pressure on the veins (standing for long periods of time, weight gain) can contribute to their development. Other factors include injury, certain medications that affect hormones (including birth control pills), and the aging process. While spider veins may cause aching, heaviness, itching, and night cramps, many people consider them to be primarily a cosmetic problem because the veins are not needed for circulation. Spider veins are related to both varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Spider Vein Treatment Options

Sclerotherapy is a popular nonsurgical procedure developed in the 1920s for the treatment of spider veins, and it has a long and successful history. During sclerotherapy, the doctor marks the veins to be treated while the patient is standing. A saline-based sclerosing solution is then injected into the veins (usually the largest veins first) with a micro-needle. The solution causes the vein to turn white, or blanch, and then gradually disappear. A typical treatment session lasts between 30 minutes and an hour, and numerous veins can be treated during that time.

Pros of Sclerotherapy Treatment

The advantages of sclerotherapy include no downtime (so patients can immediately return to work and resume normal activities) and little, if any, discomfort. Vigorous activities are to be avoided for the first 24 hours, and patients are usually asked to wear heavy-duty support stockings to help keep treated veins closed and reduce bruising. Total spider vein removal usually takes 3 to 4 treatment sessions.

Sclerotherapy Risks

Sclerotherapy can sting or burn briefly as the solution is injected. The treated veins will be swollen and tender for a few days, and bruising is a possibility. It may take up to a month for the swelling and bruising to disappear. The treatment may cause many smaller spider veins to form where a larger one was treated. Small clots may develop at the injection site and there may be color changes in the skin. The veins can recur if there is an underlying problem with the venous system, in which case surgery may be an appropriate option.

Laser As An Alternative Treatment for Spider Veins

Laser treatment is an alternative to sclerotherapy, particularly when the spider veins are on the face or are small and close to the surface of the skin. It can also be performed in on any spider veins left behind after sclerotherapy.

Spider veins can be zapped away with a laser that sends strong bursts of light into the vein, attacking the hemoglobin in the capillaries. Within a few weeks the veins fade or disappear completely.

Like sclerotherapy, the laser treatment session begins with the identification and marking of the areas to be addressed. The skin is cleaned and shaved, a topical anesthetic is applied to reduce pain, and the person performing the procedure uses the laser to administer intense bursts of light. Discomfort ranges from nothing to a slight stinging sensation, similar to being snapped with a rubber band. The process takes between 15 minutes and an hour, depending on the size of the area being treated and the severity of the problem. There is no down time, and patients can resume their regular activities immediately.

Spider Vein Laser Treatment Risks

The risks of laser treatment for spider veins include semipermanent or permanent lightening or darkening of the skin in the treated areas, and the potential for burns or injuries from the laser's heat. It's important to follow instructions both before and after surgery to minimize risks.

Some light bruising is possible but should disappear in 5 to 10 days. Skin color will fade from red to pink to normal over that time. The laser treatment may not get rid of all the imperfections, but the spider veins will significantly diminish. The procedure does not stop the normal effects of aging, nor does it prevent the development of new spider veins.

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