Spider veins and how to treat them

by Jane Thomas, A.N.P.

Spider veins are clusters of discolored, enlarged veins that most commonly appear on the calves, ankles and around your knees. They stretch like tree branches near the surface of the skin and are usually red, purple or blue in appearance. While these extra or dilated vessels generally don’t cause serious health issues, their appearance can be unsightly. Sclerotherapy is an effective and non-invasive option for treating unwanted and unnecessary spider veins.

What causes spider veins?

Spider veins can develop in people of any age or gender, but they most commonly affect women over the age of 50. An estimated 80-85 percent adults will get spider veins in their lifetime, and the most common triggers are pregnancy, standing for long periods of time, obesity and genetics. Spider veins develop when there is increased pressure on vein walls, causing the blood to pool and weaken the vein. Swelling and discoloration ensue, pushing a web-like pattern onto the skin. In rare cases, especially when thin caliber spider veins become varicose, they cause itchiness, aching, cramping, restless legs and swelling.

How are spider veins treated?

Sclerotherapy is the gold standard of spider vein treatment and has been used for more than a century. It’s hailed for its non-invasive approach, minimal post-procedure downtime and impressive results. More than 250,000 people received Sclerotherapy last year.

The treatment works by injecting a sclerosant solution directly into the affected vein, irritating the lining of the vessel and causing it to swell and stick together.

On occasion, lasers are also used to treat spider veins.  The energy from these devices, like sclerosant solution, is intended to injure and destroy the treated vein.

The goal of both these treatments is to turn the targeted vessels into scar tissue at which point they are broken down by the body and naturally fade away. As this happens, the blood supply in the treated area is re-routed to healthier veins.

Depending on the size of the affected area, the process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Patients usually feel a slight burning sensation during injection. Generally, spider veins respond after multiple treatments and are lighter in six to eight weeks — larger veins might take several months — and usually do not reappear. The optimal outcome occurs when patients incorporate regular exercise into their daily routine and wear compression socks or bandages for one to two weeks after the procedure.

Two side effects that commonly occur with this procedure are post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and matting. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation happens when the iron component of the red blood cells within the treated vein is left behind in the skin, temporarily causing a brown discoloration in the treatment area. Matting occurs when new arborizing clusters of veins appear in the area shortly after having the treatment. These side effects can be minimized by adhering to post procedure instructions and by wearing graduated compression stockings, as directed, following each treatment.

Jane Thomas is a board-certified Adult Nurse Practitioner who specializes in cosmetic dermatology. She is an expert in Sclerotherapy and is dedicated to helping her patients achieve and maintain beautiful, healthy skin by creating a personalized skincare treatment plan. Call us today to schedule a consultation with Jane, and learn more about your path to smooth, clear legs!

Posted in Blog Tagged with: , , , , , ,