Laser Vein Removal vs. Sclerotherapy
Which is best for removing spider veins?
An estimated half of all adult women have some from of spider veins, which are clusters of visible red, purple, or blue veins usually visible on the ankles, calves, and thighs. Spider veins can appear at any time, but are most frequently reported in adult women between the ages of 30 and 60. In addition to being unsightly, spider veins are frequently associated with symptoms such as aching, burning, swelling, and night cramps. Although the exact causes of spider veins aren't known, it is thought that factors include prolonged sitting or standing, pregnancy and other hormonal changes, weight gain, aging, and heredity. While women get spider veins more frequently, they also occur in men, although their appearance in men is usually mitigated by the presence of body hair in the affected areas. However, spider veins can be treated equally effectively in both sexes.
Contrary to popular opinion, spider veins are not broken veins, but are intact veins that have simply become dilated or stretched. While the fine veins that make up spider vein clusters are connected to the venous system, they are not essential, and consequently, they can be safely removed by a licensed cosmetic surgeon.
Options for eliminating spider veins involve one of two basic procedures: Laser vein removal or sclerotherapy. Both of these procedures involve breaking down the veins so that they are reabsorbed into the body and are no longer visible. Both procedures are simple, relatively painless, and involve little time or discomfort during recovery.
Laser vein removal involves targeting a laser light at the spider veins, bypassing the skin. The hemoglobin absorbs the laser light, which causes the vessels to coagulate and be absorbed harmlessly into the system.
Sclerotherapy involves a similar result, in that the spider veins are broken down and absorbed into the system, but the procedure is different. With sclerotherapy, the veins are injected with a saline or other similar solution, approximately one injection per inch, causing inflammation inside the vein, which causes the lumen, or cavity, of the vein to collapse and the vein to be subsequently reabsorbed.
Both procedures produce similar results using similar underlying methods, but each involves some unique benefits and limitations that should be carefully considered during the decision making process.
Some of the major factors the patient should take into consideration include the following:
Needle sensitivity. Sclerotherapy requires the doctor to inject the solution into the patient's skin, at about one injection per inch of skin. The needle is thin, and the injections shallow, but for patients with extreme sensitivity to needles, laser vein removal might be preferable to avoid any discomfort.
Precision. Laser vein therapy can allow the cosmetic surgeon to more effectively target smaller areas and finer veins than is usual in sclerotherapy.
Cost. Because laser vein removal requires the use of expensive laser equipment, costs for laser vein therapy tend to be higher than for sclerotherapy.
As with any procedure, it is important that the patient research the options available and discuss the effectiveness of available treatments with a reputable cosmetic surgeon. Here is board certified plastic surgeon who offers sclerotherapy or laser vein removal: Douglas Hendricks, M.D. in Newport Beach, California.