No one likes the look of the small purple, blue, and red veins coursing about on the surface of their legs and on their face, but you don’t have to simply live with them. At Westerville Dermatology, we treat spider veins and small to medium-size varicose veins with laser energy and sclerotherapy.
What Causes Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?
Veins are the pathways for de-oxygenated blood to return to the heart. Unfortunately, in the legs, the veins have to fight gravity the entire way. When we’re young, our muscles and tissues are strong and squeeze the veins to help push the blood through them. But, as these tissues slacken with age, they no longer provide the same support for the veins. Also, the vein walls weaken. This combination can allow the blood to flow backwards or pool. This can either push the vein wall outward or cause the vein to begin to take a meandering, curving path, instead of its former straighter course. This is how varicose veins and spider veins form.
There are certain risk factors that come into play and lead to a person forming these kinds of veins: pregnancy, hereditary traits, weight fluctuations, hormonal changes, and activities/occupations that require prolonged sitting or standing.
What Is The Difference Between Varicose and Spider Veins?
While these veins form the same way, varicose veins are larger than spider veins. They are the veins that push upward on the skin surface of the legs. Usually, this occurs on the calves. Spider veins typically form as small clusters on the thighs, ankles, calves, and the cheeks of the face. They tend to be very close to the surface of the skin; that’s why they are so visible.
What Are The Symptoms of Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?
Spider veins usually present no symptoms. Because they are so small, they are rarely painful and they don’t present any health risk. It’s just their unsightly appearance that bothers people. They can make a person avoid wearing shorts or a bathing suit, just to keep the spider veins covered.
Varicose veins are larger and can cause these symptoms:
- Pain, aching or burning sensations in the legs or feet
- Swelling or redness at the site
- Cramping of the legs, especially at night
- Scaly, dry or discolored skin at the site
- Discomfort after sitting or standing for long periods
How Do You Remove Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?
At Westerville Dermatology, we use both laser therapy and sclerotherapy to remove our patients’ spider veins and varicose veins. These methods work well for all spider veins and small to medium-size varicose veins, and there are advantages to each option. Very large varicose veins may require laser ablation.
We use the Cynergy laser for our vein treatments. It features a multiplex laser that produces different wavelengths that we can then use for veins of different sizes and at different depths. The Cynergy system combines a long pulse-dye laser and a Nd:YAG laser. We use the long pulse-dye laser for most spider veins, as it has more shallow depth penetration. This is how we treat spider veins on the face. For varicose veins, we usually use the Nd:YAG because of its deeper penetration.
After applying local anesthetic to the area of the targeted veins, we set the laser wavelength to match the blood in the vein or veins. The laser light energy is delivered in short pulses onto the skin. The laser energy penetrates the skin surface and is absorbed by the color of the vein beneath. When absorbed, the light energy immediately converts to heat energy. The heat coagulates the blood in the vein, and the vein walls collapse inward, sealing off the vein. Any blood that was being routed through the now closed-off vein is instantly sent to an adjacent, healthier vein. Now that the vein is no longer used, the body begins the process of scavenging it. This will completely remove the vein in time. Although some semblance of the vein may still exist after your treatment, the appearance will be dramatically lessened immediately.
Sclerotherapy has long been the standard for spider vein removal. Newer foam sclerotherapy is effective with varicose veins. Developed in the 1930s, sclerotherapy continues to successfully remove unsightly spider veins and varicose veins. With sclerotherapy, a sclerosant agent consisting mainly of saline solution is injected directly into the targeted vein with a very tiny needle.
For varicose veins, we may use a foam sclerosant that fills the vein more efficiently and also remains in the vein for a longer period. Once inside the vein, the sclerosant irritates the vein wall, causing it to collapse and close off the vein. Just as it does with laser treatment, the body instantly reroutes any blood to an adjacent healthier vein, and then it goes about absorbing the closed-off vein and its coagulated blood over the next few weeks.
Is One Treatment Option Better Than The Other?
At Westerville Dermatology, we’re fans of both treatment options for spider veins and varicose veins. Both treatments have advantages.
We love our Cynergy laser for treating spider veins and small varicose veins. These are some advantages:
- Patients don’t have to deal with the injections of sclerotherapy.
- Laser energy can treat more than one spider vein at a time.
- The laser features a cooling tip, which keeps the skin comfortable.
- Some people can have itching from the sclerosant solution used in sclerotherapy.
- Lasers are the optimal method for treating spider veins on the face.
- Some spider veins are too small to be accurately injected.
Sclerotherapy has long been the standard of spider vein treatment, and foam sclerotherapy is very effective on varicose veins. Here are the advantages of sclerotherapy:
- Laser energy can cause pigmentation problems with people with darker skin tones or tanned skin.
- Sclerotherapy, despite the injections, can be more comfortable.
- Sclerotherapy usually removes the veins in just one treatment, where sometimes multiple sessions are required with laser treatment.
What Are The Risks of Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a very safe procedure. That’s why it has been used for almost 90 years! Still, there are some potential side effects with sclerotherapy:
- Skin discoloration, a darkening of the skin, may occur at the injection sites, but it usually resolves in a few weeks.
- Itching, burning, and pain at the injection sites for a couple of days
- Allergic reaction to the sclerosant
More serious risks are very rare but include possible blood clot formation, nerve damage, and air bubbles in the treated veins.
What Are The Risks of Laser Therapy?
Risks and complications are rare with laser vein therapy, but many patients find this treatment more painful than sclerotherapy.
Is There Any Recovery After Vein Treatment?
Immediately after your treatment you may feel a slight bump on the skin above the treated vein, but this goes away within a few hours. The area may also look a little redder as if it is bruised. You may have some actual slight bruising with sclerotherapy. If you’re having a number of veins treated, we will recommend wearing support hose for a week or two. This helps the body begin the process of absorbing the closed-off veins. There isn’t any downtime with these procedures; you can get right back to your normal activities when you leave our offices, although you should avoid very strenuous exercise for a couple of days.
To keep your vascular health in good form, we recommend that our patients maintain a healthy weight and include exercise, especially walking, in their daily routines.