In treating spider veins, it’s important to understand their distinction from varicose veins. Spider veins are the little blood vessels that are visibly located just below the outer surface of the skin. They are blue, purple or reddish in color and most often appear on the legs or face. Varicose veins on the other hand are thick, swollen and unsightly as they protrude above the skin surface. They too appear blue in color, but unlike spider veins, varicose veins typically cause pain, numbness and/or tingling. Spider veins and varicose veins typically co-exist as spider veins are often caused by the same underlying condition that causes varicose veins. In the presence of varicose veins, spider veins will often reappear quickly after treatment.
Spider Veins Treatment: Sclerotherapy vs Lasers
There are 2 common treatment options for spider veins: sclerotherapy and lasers.
Spider Vein Treatment with Sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy treatment consists of injecting a liquid directly into the spider veins, which results in the veins contracting and consequently collapsing. Since the injections are administered with a very small needle, this treatment option is primarily suited for medium or large spider veins. The procedures are performed in a surgeon’s office and produce some discomfort. The treatments can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on the number of spider veins present. After the procedure is completed, patients are advised to wear compression stockings for 3 to 10 days to achieve desired results multiple treatments are required at 30 to 60 day intervals. However, some spider veins may never be successfully treated with sclerotherapy.
Laser Treatment of Spider Veins
During laser treatment for spider veins, a laser is applied directly to the surface of the skin above the patient’s spider veins. The heat energy of the laser causes the small veins to coagulate and collapse, resulting in their removal. Laser spider vein therapy is most effective for the treatment of small to medium size spider veins (less than about 1/8” or 3mm in diameter). Laser treatments for spider veins can be painful, but our patients that have had sclerotherapy and lasers tell us lasers are less painful. Multiple treatments may be required for complete clearance, but some veins will be gone after the first treatment. Treatments are performed about 45 days apart.
One other point that differentiates laser spider vein removal from sclerotherapy is hemosiderin staining. Sclerotherapy can cause this brown discoloration that occurs after the injections. Laser treatments do not cause this same side effect and in fact, hemosiderin staining is something we can remove using lasers.
Spider Veins on the Face
Patients seeking to eliminate facial spider veins will most often opt for laser treatment. Sclerotherapy is difficult to perform on the small blood vessels in the face whereas laser treatments work very easily in this area. One to three laser treatments may be needed to see desired results but most often, some of the veins will be gone immediately after the first treatment. The application of makeup can easily and effectively conceal any after-effects following the laser treatments.