For many people, spider veins are a cosmetic issue that robs self-confidence. They can cause embarrassment and spur attempts to hide them with clothing. Fortunately, a procedure known as sclerotherapy can eliminate these troublesome vessels.
The Nature of Spider Veins
Spider veins are often referred to as varicose veins. In fact, these are distinct conditions. The UCLA School of Medicine reports that spider veins, seldom bigger than 1 mm, are generally smaller than varicose veins and also form closer to the surface of a patient’s skin.
These small vessels most often appear on the legs or the face. They form jagged lines that often resemble a spider’s web and can cover a large or small area. They look purple, red, or blue. The development of these annoying vessels most often links to genetics, weight gain, medication-related hormonal shifts, pregnancy, and/or prolonged periods of sitting or standing.
Preferred Vein Treatment
The most common and the preferred treatment vein doctors use for spider veins consists of injecting a specially developed chemical called a sclerosing agent through a tiny needle into a targeted vessel. According to the University of Michigan Vein Centers, once a surgeon injects this chemical, the walls of a vein undergo inflammation and begin to stick together. Eventually, scarring occurs. The vein is no longer able to carry blood, a task borne by neighboring, healthy vessels.
Once a vein has been sealed off, it begins to fade and is ultimately no longer visible. Vascular surgeons perform this non-invasive procedure on an outpatient basis, typically in a vein clinic.
What Patients Should Expect
At an initial consultation, the surgeon will perform an exam and take a health history. Patients approved for this treatment receive detailed instructions before and after the procedure.
Each treatment lasts around 15 minutes. Some veins might require more than one treatment before they disappear.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that few patients experience discomfort. Some report slight stinging or cramping upon needle insertion. Raised red areas, small skin sores, bruising at the injection site, dark pigmentation, and tiny red blood vessels are the most frequent side effects. All are temporary.
Once the session has been completed, a patient remains on his or her back for about 20 minutes. Post-operative instructions specify how long the patient should wear compression stockings if the targeted veins were in the legs. Most individuals are able to resume non-strenuous daily activities right away.
Treated veins usually begin to fade in just a few weeks. This procedure has become the most common treatment for spider and small varicose veins in part because it carries an overall success rate of 50 to 80 percent. However, patients should understand that it cannot prevent new spider veins from developing. For this reason, some individuals will want to undergo periodic treatments.