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Spider veins are fine, visible veins that normally appear just beneath the surface of the skin of the legs or the face. They are usually red, purple, or blue in color, and may occur singly or in branched clusters. Common causes of spider veins include poor blood circulation — sometimes brought on by pregnancy — as well as obesity, sun exposure, and hormonal fluctuations. While spider veins are relatively harmless, they can be unsightly. Luckily, two highly successful spider vein removal methods exist: sclerotherapy and laser therapy.
As sclerotherapy is a long-established procedure with a demonstrated improvement rate of up to 90 percent, many consider it the best spider vein removal method. This outpatient technique involves the injection of a saline solution directly into the unwanted spider veins. The solution causes the injected veins to swell and eventually seal. In the weeks following the treatment, the sealed veins gradually fade and, in many cases, become totally invisible.
Even though sclerotherapy is the most commonly used spider vein removal treatment, it does have some potential drawbacks. Many people experience pain or stinging during injections, although this discomfort is usually temporary. Some patients develop ulcers, bruising, or rashes at or near the injection sites, though again, these reactions tend to be short-lived. Perhaps the primary drawback of sclerotherapy is the fact that some stubborn spider veins may require multiple treatments, which can translate to a great deal of expense and time for patients with many unwanted veins.
Laser therapy may be an attractive spider vein removal option for those who are uncomfortable with needle-based treatments. In this outpatient treatment, which generally lasts approximately 15 minutes, pulses of light are aimed at the unwanted veins. This light destroys the veins, causing them to fade and disappear in the days and weeks that follow.
While laser therapy can prove highly successful in targeting unwanted spider veins, it has several potential disadvantages that should be considered before submitting to the treatment. First of all, many patients report feeling a painful, burning sensation on the skin during treatment sessions. Also, depending on the severity and number of spider veins, up to five of these treatment sessions may be required. In addition, some people experience discoloration of the skin at and around the treatment site, which can last for up to two months. Finally, in rare cases, patients suffer blistering of the skin following treatments, which can lead to permanently scarred, discolored skin.