With laser vein therapy there are a number of treatment options that minimize or remove the varicose or spider vein, most typically on the face or legs, so its function can be quickly taken over by healthy veins. Procedures include: laser surgery or pulsed light therapy, sclerotherapy (injection of a solution to collapse the vein), ambulatory phlebectomy (vein is removed via a series of tiny incisions along the path of the enlarged vein).
Spider veins are formed by the dilation of a small group of blood vessels located close to the surface of the skin. Although they can appear anywhere on the body, spider veins are most commonly found on the face and legs. They usually pose no health hazard, but may produce a dull aching in the legs after prolonged standing and indicate more severe venous disease.
Varicose veins are abnormally swollen or enlarged blood vessels caused by a weakening in the vein’s wall. They can be harmful to a patient’s health because they may be associated with the development of one or more of the following conditions: phlebitis or inflamed, tender vein; thrombosis or a clot in the vein; and venous stasis ulcers or open sores from inadequate tissue oxygen and fluid retention.
What factors increase my risk of varicose veins and spider veins?
Many factors increase a person’s chances of developing varicose or spider veins. These include:
- Increasing age. As you get older, the valves in your veins may weaken and not work as well.
- Medical history. Being born with weak vein valves increases your risk. Having family members with vein problems also increases your risk. About half of all people who have varicose veins have a family member who has them too.
- Hormonal changes. These occur during pregnancy, and menopause. Taking birth control pills and other medicines containing estrogen and progesterone also may contribute to the forming of varicose or spider veins.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, there is a huge increase in the amount of blood in the body. This can cause veins to enlarge
- The growing uterus also puts pressure on the veins. Varicose veins usually improve within 3 months after delivery. More varicose veins and spider veins usually appear with each additional pregnancy.
- Obesity. Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on your veins. This can lead to varicose veins.
- Lack of movement. Sitting or standing for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart. This may be a bigger problem if you sit with your legs bent or crossed.
- Sun exposure. This can cause spider veins on the cheeks or nose of a fair-skinned person.
Why do varicose veins and spider veins usually appear in the legs?
Most varicose and spider veins appear in the legs due to the pressure of body weight, force of gravity, and task of carrying blood from the bottom of the body up to the heart.
Compared with other veins in the body, leg veins have the toughest job of carrying blood back to the heart. They endure the most pressure. This pressure can be stronger than the one-way valves in the veins.
What are the signs of varicose veins?
Varicose veins can often be seen on the skin. Some other common symptoms of varicose veins in the legs include:
- Aching pain that may get worse after sitting or standing for a long time
- Throbbing or cramping
- Rash that’s itchy or irritated
- Darkening of the skin (in severe cases)
- Restless legs
How are varicose and spider veins treated?
Varicose veins are treated with lifestyle changes and medical treatments. These can:
- Relieve symptoms
- Prevent complications
- Improve appearance
Dr. Lundeby may recommend lifestyle changes if your varicose veins don’t cause many symptoms. If symptoms are more severe Dr.Lundeby may recommend medical treatments. Some treatment options include:
Compression stockings put helpful pressure on your veins. There are 3 kinds of compression stockings:
- Support pantyhose, which offer the least amount of pressure. These also often are not “gradient” or “graduated.” That means they provide pressure all over instead of where it is needed most.
- Over-the-counter gradient compression hose, which give a little more pressure. They are sold in medical supply and drugstores.
- Prescription-strength gradient compression hose, which offer the greatest amount of pressure. They are sold in medical supply and drugstores. You need to be fitted for them by someone who has been trained to do this.
Sclerotherapy (SKLER-o-ther-a-pee) is the most common treatment for both spider veins and varicose veins. Dr. Lundeby uses a needle to inject a liquid chemical into the vein. The chemical causes the vein walls to swell, stick together, and seal shut.
This stops the flow of blood, and the vein turns into scar tissue. In a few weeks, the vein should fade. This treatment does not require anesthesia and can be done in our office. You can return to normal activity right after treatment.
The same vein may need to be treated more than once. Treatments are usually done every 4 to 6 weeks. You may be asked to wear gradient compression stockings after sclerotherapy to help with healing and decrease swelling. This treatment is very effective when done correctly.
Surface Laser Treatments
In some cases, laser treatments can effectively treat spider veins and smaller varicose veins. This technique sends very strong bursts of light through the skin onto the vein. This makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. Not all skin types and colors can be safely treated with lasers.
No needles or incisions are used, but the heat from the laser can be quite painful. Cooling helps reduce the pain. Laser treatments last for 15 to 20 minutes. Generally, 2 to 5 treatments are needed to remove spider veins in the legs. Laser therapy usually isn’t effective for varicose veins larger than 3 mm (about a tenth of an inch). You can return to normal activity right after treatment.
Possible side effects of lasers include:
- Redness or swelling of the skin right after the treatment that disappears within a few days
- Discolored skin that will disappear within 1 to 2 months
- Burns and scars from poorly performed laser surgery, though this is rare
Surgery is used mostly to treat very large varicose veins. Types of surgery for varicose veins include:
Surgical ligation and stripping
With this treatment, problem veins are tied shut and completely removed from the leg through small cuts in the skin. Removing the veins does not affect the circulation of blood in the leg. Veins deeper in the leg take care of the larger volumes of blood. This surgery may be done awake or with conscious sedation anesthesia and must be done in an operating room. It takes between 1 and 4 weeks to recover from the surgery. This surgery is generally safe. Pain in the leg is the most common side effect.
How can I prevent varicose veins and spider veins?
Not all varicose and spider veins can be prevented. But, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting new varicose and spider veins. These same things can help ease discomfort from the ones you already have:
- Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and to limit spider veins on the face.
- Exercise regularly to improve your leg strength, circulation, and vein strength. Focus on exercises that work your legs, such as walking or running.
- Control your weight to avoid placing too much pressure on your legs.
- Don’t cross your legs for long times when sitting. It’s possible to injure your legs that way, and even a minor injury can increase the risk of varicose veins.
- Elevate your legs when resting as much as possible.
- Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time. If you must stand for a long time, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. If you must sit for long periods of time, stand up and move around or take a short walk every 30 minutes.
- Wear elastic support stockings and avoid tight clothing that constricts your waist, groin, or legs.
- Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time. Lower-heeled shoes can help tone your calf muscles to help blood move through your veins.
Can varicose and spider veins return even after treatment?
Current treatments for varicose veins and spider veins have very high success rates compared to traditional surgical treatments. Over a period of years, however, more abnormal veins can develop because there is no cure for weak vein valves. Ultrasound can be used to keep track of how badly the valves are leaking (venous insufficiency). Ongoing treatment can help keep this problem under control.
The single most important thing you can do to slow down the development of new varicose veins is to wear gradient compression support stockings as much as possible during the day.
Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation
To schedule a complimentary consultation with Spokane/Tri Cities Vein Therapy surgeon Dr. Lundeby, please send an email or call Shape Cosmetic Surgery & Med Spa, PLLC at 509-458-SKIN
Dr. Lundeby is a member of the America College of Phlebology.