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If you have spider veins, you may be considering medical treatment beyond the conservative (compression socks), but are unsure of which route to go—sclerotherapy or laser therapy? Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Sometimes, “One man’s [sugar] is another man’s poison.”
Sclerotherapy is a Minimally-Invasive Treatment
Sclerotherapy is a minimally-invasive treatment in which your physician injects an irritant (or a sclerosant) into a diseased vein, causing it to collapse. Traditionally, the physician injects a liquid irritant (or chemical) into smaller veins that are diseased, like spider veins and sometimes smaller varicose veins on the face and hands. When treating medium to larger veins, a thicker foaming agent is generally used. A single treatment can clear up to 80% of spider veins, though sometimes multiple injections are necessary to treat larger areas.
Some common chemicals used in the United States include:
Laser Spider Vein Treatment
Laser therapy for spider veins is a non-invasive procedure that involves directing an intense light source (or medical laser) at the veins, which are directly underneath the skin’s surface. The heat from the laser denatures the inside lining of the spider vein, causing it to die. Over time, the spider vein fades and is reabsorbed by the body. Usually, surface treatments are a quick procedure that can be done in your doctor’s office. Depending on the extent of the area needing treatment, sessions typically last about 20 minutes. Generally, you can return to normal activities within a day. The most common side effects are temporary and include redness and blistering to the treated area.
Sclerotherapy for Superficial Spider Veins
If you have superficial spider veins, sclerotherapy is often recommended as the therapy of choice because it treats the root of the problem—the feeding reticular veins. These types of veins ‘feed’ the spider veins with blood, thus why they are sometimes referred to as, “feeder veins.” They are easy to identify because they have a bluish color and can generally be found centrally located near a network of spider veins. When treating spider veins, it’s important also to treat their feeding reticular veins. If these veins are poorly treated or ignored while treating your spider veins, a complication is known as, “matting” can result.
What is matting?
Matting is a complication of sclerotherapy and is the appearance of new spider veins that look different from the original spider veins. The spider veins can become worse in appearance, looking like a bruise along the treated area. If this happens, matting generally appears a few months following treatment and spontaneously clears over time. When it’s persistent, it’s usually because the treatment of the feeding reticular veins may not have been successful.
Laser Treatment for Facial Spider Veins
Though sclerotherapy is generally recommended as the therapy of choice for superficial spider veins, surface laser treatments may be an option to consider for treating visible spider veins on your face. Results can generally be seen soon following the procedure, but it will likely take more than one session to clear up facial spider veins. When needing more than one treatment, sessions are generally spaced about one week apart to allow for healing.
The Benefits of Sclerotherapy
For those with vein disease, sclerotherapy can offer relief from such symptoms as, swelling and pain. For people who have cosmetic concerns, sclerotherapy may improve their appearance. The procedure is typically done in your physician’s office, so no hospital time is required. Recovery time is quick and easy, and you will be able to move and walk around following treatment. Though, it’s probably best to have someone drive you home, especially if your lower limbs were treated.
Some advantages of sclerotherapy for spider veins include:
- Minimal to no pain
- Lasting results
Sclerotherapy is the Treatment of Choice for Spider Veins
Simply put, sclerotherapy is a quick and straightforward procedure that can be done in your doctor’s office and is highly effective in treating superficial spider veins. If you are tired of the way your legs look and you desire to get rid of unsightly spider veins, sclerotherapy can help you achieve your goal. In some people spider veins can cause aching and pain in the affected limbs, sclerotherapy can provide relief from these symptoms. Whether treating the cosmetic or providing symptomatic relief, sclerotherapy is the treatment of choice for superficial spider veins.
What About Insurance Coverage for Sclerotherapy?
Insurance companies differ in their coverage, so check in with them and see what they offer. Typically, most companies will cover treatments for venous insufficiency; however, receiving coverage for cosmetic procedures can be a bit trickier. Talk with your healthcare provider and see how many sessions you may require, as most vein clinics are more than happy to assist you in receiving the care that you need!
Medically reviewed by Dr. Susanne Woloson on 5-01-2020.
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