What are spider veins?
Unattractive spider veins on their faces and legs trouble millions of women and men. Spider veins are called as such because they resemble a “star” with numerous small veins radiating from a center point. They may also appear as fine, separate lines, a web-like maze, or as “branches” from a single “tree trunk.” These red, blue or purple thread-like lines may develop on any part of the body, including the face, but most often appear on the thighs, calves, or buttocks. The condition is associated with increased pressure to the veins.
What causes spider veins?
Spider veins are typically caused by abnormal blood flow and weakening of the blood vessel wall. Any condition or activity that places pressure on the veins (like weight gain, prolonged sitting or standing) can contribute to their development.
Spider veins increase with age and thus are quite common in the elderly. There is also a genetic basis, since spider veins do tend to run in families. In pregnancy, spider veins are quite common and have been associated with an increase in the female hormone, estrogen. Estrogen is known to weaken the walls of the veins and may contribute to the development of spider veins. During pregnancy spider veins are most common in the 2nd trimester.
What is the role of Laser in the treatment of spider veins?
The best and gold standard treatment for spider veins is laser. Laser vein removal is an easy, fast, and effective way to treat superficial veins. Laser therapy has been used in the medical field for more than 30 years. The laser uses a focused beam of light. In the treatment of veins, the wavelength of light is targeted to the pigment in the blood. The laser heats up the small vein and destroys it. The laser beam is focused and does not damage the nearby skin tissue. Over a period of four to six weeks, the vein is reabsorbed by the body and disappears.
Who is a candidate for laser vein therapy?
There are no absolute reasons as to why one may not undergo laser therapy. However one should:
- be in good physical health
- be mentally and psychologically stable
- preferably not smoke
- want to improve his/her appearance
- be realistic about the procedure and results
- have no disease of the blood vessels or problems with bleeding
- not tan or use tanning lotions
Laser therapy is most effective for the very small spider veins and not used to treat large varicose veins.
What type of laser is used to treat spider veins?
The laser used to treat spider veins is the Elite MPX™ by Cynosure. It is a hand held device and also has a cooling tip to minimize the discomfort during the therapy. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) can also be utilized for small superficial facial veins.
How does the laser work?
Elite MPX™ pierces the skin and penetrates the superficial blood vessel. The heat generated from the laser coagulates the blood inside the vessel causing it to collapse and seal. Over the next few weeks, the vessel will disappear and the body’s scavenging cells will remove all the blood. These laser treatments allow the delivery of a precise dosage of energy to each blood vessel without injuring any nearby structures.
What preparations must I take?
There are no major preparations required before the laser treatment. A few common sense recommendations include avoiding sun exposure, aspirin, alcohol and not smoking for at least a week prior to the procedure.
On the day of the treatment one should avoid all creams, lotions and moisturizers on the area that is going to be treated.
One should wear comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the body part(s).
What happens during the laser therapy?
The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. The majority of individuals do not require any type of anesthesia, but for those who are squeamish or anticipate pain, you may come in and have a topical anesthetic applied 30 minutes prior to the procedure. During your treatment, you may feel a slight tingling sensation as the laser fires. The Elite MPX™ laser does have a cooling system which prevents the tip of the laser from getting hot, making your treatments more comfortable.
How does one feel after the laser therapy?
Soon after the procedure, you may feel a slight bump on the skin that will disappear in the next 2-4 hours. The area may also appear slightly redder and occasionally some patients may bruise.
Are there any precautions after laser therapy?
After laser therapy, it is strongly recommended that one keep away from the sun for a minimum of 2 weeks. Wearing support hose can facilitate healing. The pain is minimal and one may take any over the counter pain medications. After treatment, there is no down time. You can resume all of your normal activities immediately afterward.
What are side effects of laser therapy?
The skin above the veins will have a reddish, cat-scratch appearance. This generally disappears over the next two days. In some cases, patients will experience scabbing, that will last for a few days up to one-week post treatment.
When can I go back to work after laser therapy?
Patients are encouraged to resume all normal activities immediately. Final results may not be apparent for several months. Most patients are satisfied by the results in a very short time.
How long does it take for the results to become evident?
The results of laser treatment for spider veins are not immediate. After the laser therapy, the vessels underneath the skin will gradually change from a dark blue to light red color, then eventually disappearing in two to six weeks.
Most patients report a high degree of satisfaction with the procedure and relief at no longer having to hide unsightly veins. The treated areas are noticeably clearer and in most cases the skin continues to improve with each successive treatment.
The majority of spider veins will disappear within two to four weeks, and in some cases even longer.
How many treatments will I need?
Depending on the size and number of veins, two to six treatments will be needed. The treatments are usually done 4-6 weeks apart. Those with a tendency towards vascular problems will most likely require additional treatments.