The wear and tear that comes with time shows up on our skin. For many of us, adulthood and various stages of life (eg pregnancy) come with skin changes. I’ve recently had several patients ask me about pesky spider veins and varicose veins.
These are veins that become dilated or “loose” over time. They lose their elasticity and like old panty hose, become loose and wider. They become more visible through the skin and this becomes a cosmetic concern for many. Like leaky pipes, they also become functionally deficient.
So how can varicose veins and spider veins be treated?
A number of treatments exist for each type of dilated vein. The varicose veins can be removed or “stripped” surgically, or a laser device can be inserted up the vein to destroy the vein. Sometimes special solutions can be injected that will also lead to destruction of the vein, a procedure called sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy can also be done for spider veins. Spider veins are called such because the appearance of the reddish or purplish veins can resemble legs of a spider. A special laser can also be used to get rid of these spider veins, although this treatment is sometimes less effective than sclerotherapy.
If you are interested in removal, find a surgeon who is experienced in spider vein and varicose vein removal. Dermatologists often perform sclerotherapy and laser treatment for the smaller spider veins, whereas vascular surgeons or interventional radiologists often take care of varicose vein removal.
Additionally, ask your physician about compression stockings. These are stockings that can be bought both off the shelf and are also available by prescription. Your physician can determine how much compression is appropriate for you and prescribe these socks for you. As someone who is on her feet a lot at work, I have found these compression stockings to be very helpful in preventing leg and foot fatigue and preventing the appearance of dilated veins. During pregnancy, the legs often swell, and this becomes a time when women develop these dilated veins. It would be a good idea to talk to your obstetrician about compression stockings if you are experiencing the swelling or dilated veins.
What is sclerotherapy? It’s a procedure where a special liquid or solution is injected into the veins you want to get rid of. The injected liquid could be a salt solution or it could be a special detergent. This solution makes the vein shrivel up.
What can I expect? Your doctor will use a small needle to inject the solution. You may feel some stinging, burning or pain with the injection. Afterwards, bandages may be placed over the areas of injection. You should wear compression stockings afterwards if you have them available.
Who can’t get sclerotherapy? If you’re pregnant or nursing, have had blood clots, are bedridden, are tanned, or have a bleeding disorder, sclerotherapy is not right for you.
Are there other options to sclerotherapy? Absolutely. There are lasers that can be used to get rid of certain veins. For larger veins, a surgeon can remove the vein in question. There are also other devices that can heat up a vein from within and cause them to disappear.
What should I do now if I am interested in sclerotherapy? Seek out a physician (dermatologist, vascular surgeon, etc) who does many of these procedures for a consultation.