Spider veins are small, twisted blood vessels that typically appear on the face or legs in a spiderweb pattern, hence the name. While they are usually harmless, they can negatively affect one’s self-confidence. Compression stockings and healthy lifestyle changes should be your first line of defense once you notice those enlarged, visible veins, but if these methods are ineffective, you will need to seek medical treatment. Spider veins can be treated with either laser therapy or sclerotherapy. While both procedures work similarly, some people have their doubts about the effectiveness of laser therapy. To clear up any confusion, here’s what you need to know about spider vein laser removal.
What Does Spider Vein Laser Treatment Entail?
Laser therapy involves using focused light beams to heat and block the blood flow to the affected veins without damaging the skin or surrounding tissue. Within four to six weeks, the veins will be reabsorbed by the body, where they will no longer be visible underneath the skin. During a laser treatment session, you will be instructed to wear protective goggles to shield your eyes from the intense laser beams. Next, the specialist will apply a cooling gel to the affected area before targeting the spider veins with focused light energy.
You will likely experience mild pain and discomfort while undergoing laser therapy; patients often compare it to a rubber band snapping against their skin. While laser treatment requires no downtime, you might experience some redness or inflammation, and you’ll likely have to wear compression garments after your session for optimal results. You may have to undergo several sessions that are usually spaced four to six weeks apart, depending on the number, color, and size of the veins.
Who Can Undergo Laser Therapy and How Effective Is It?
Ideally, patients who undergo spider vein laser treatment should be non-smokers and generally in good health. Those who suffer from vascular diseases or skin conditions, have tattoos in the area that requires treatment, or take certain medications may not be good candidates for laser therapy.
Pregnant women are also advised against it. If you have any chronic medical conditions, be sure to consult a specialist before undergoing treatment. If you have trouble understanding what a vein doctor is called or which vein specialist to consult, a quick Google search will point you in the right direction. You can also ask your dermatologist or primary care physician to recommend a phlebologist or vascular specialist in your area.
Laser treatment is most effective on small, shallow, and sparse veins. It usually proves ineffective on deep and large veins as it takes more energy to target veins that lie further than a few millimeters underneath the skin or are larger than a 30-gauge needle. This excess energy is more difficult to concentrate and control, which can cause unintended heating of the surrounding tissue. That’s why laser therapy is usually recommended only for mild cases.
Laser Treatment vs. Sclerotherapy
Similar to laser therapy, sclerotherapy works on redirecting the blood flow to healthy veins so that the spider veins would turn to scar tissue that the body will eventually eliminate on its own. However, instead of light energy, sclerotherapy involves injecting a chemical solution into the affected veins to trigger a series of biological reactions that will then irritate, dehydrate, and eliminate the unsightly veins. Unlike laser treatment, sclerotherapy injections can be used to treat large veins that lie further underneath the skin. They also tend to work faster and hence require fewer sessions.
Although they are less painful, patients who are allergic to certain chemicals and those who have trypanophobia (fear of medical procedures involving needles or injections) might want to opt for laser therapy instead. Laser therapy is also recommended for facial spider vein treatments because it’s less traumatic to the surrounding skin and provides a lower risk of temporary hyperpigmentation.
If you are unhappy with those unsightly spider veins and want to rebuild your self-esteem, start by comparing the pros and cons of both laser therapy and sclerotherapy to make an informed decision. While both procedures are effective, laser treatment may be the better option if the affected blood vessels are too small to be injected or if you have an aversion to needles or the chemicals used in sclerotherapy. Ultimately, the best treatment approach will depend on your skin type and pain threshold, as well as the size, number, and location of the veins. In some cases, combining both treatment options may be the best course of action to eliminate spider veins once and for all. So, make sure to consult a phlebologist or vascular specialist to determine the best treatment plan for your case.