Spider Veins: Sclerotherapy

Spider veins are dilated small blood vessels that have a red or bluish color. They appear mostly on the legs, occasionally on the face or elsewhere, and may often be unwanted. They can be short, unconnected lines each about the size of a large hair or connected in a scraggly, “sunburst” pattern. They may also look like a spider web or tree branches. Sometimes, they occur in a small area and aren’t very noticeable, or they can cover a large area of skin and be quite unattractive. Large dilated blood vessels called varicose veins may be raised above the skin surface. Although these tiny blood vessels carry blood, the great majority of them, especially spider veins, are not necessary. If they are unsightly or uncomfortable, they can be treated with an injection of a solution that will cause them to fade or disappear altogether. There is an 80 to 90 percent chance the treatment will greatly improve the appearance in the problem area.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Spider veins seem to be caused by a variety of factors. In some cases they seem to run in families. Other factors include pregnancy, birth control pills, hormones or prolonged standing. Identical twins can be affected in the same area of the body and to the same extent. The condition can very occasionally occur as part of an internal disease.

How are Spider Veins Treated?

In the majority of cases, a procedure called sclerotherapy is used to treat unwanted blood vessels. A sclerosing solution called Polidocanol (Asclera) is injected with a very fine needle directly into the blood vessel. This procedure has been used for spider veins since the 1930s and before that for larger veins. The solution irritates the lining of the vessel, causing it to swell and stick together and the blood to clot. Over a period of weeks, the vessel turns into scar tissue that fades, eventually becoming barely noticeable or invisible. A single blood vessel may have to be injected more than once, some weeks apart, depending on its size. In any one treatment session a number of vessels can be injected.

How are Spider Veins on the Face Treated?

There are several ways to treat spider veins on the face. Lasers have been used successfully, alone or in combination with sclerotherapy. Light electrodessication with a fine tipped electrode is also effective.

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