Spider veins usually called 'starbursts' are tiny veins just beneath the skin, appearing like the shape of a
spider. These veins develop most often on the face and thighs, calves and
ankles. They are usually blue, purple or red in color and are cosmetically
disfiguring. They are termed 'telangiectasias' and they radiate from a central
point. Spider veins appear as fine but separate lines akin to a web. They seem
to appear like branches from a trunk of a tree shaped form.
What causes spider veins?
The exact cause of spider veins is unknown. Nevertheless, spider veins are related to abnormal blood flow in
the affected veins. They most often result from an underlying venous
insufficiency. Doctors opine that any activity that can put pressure on the leg
veins such as gaining weight, sitting or standing for long durations can cause
this development. In women spider veins often appear during pregnancy.
Spider veins may appear due to injury to the affected area, consuming medications that affect hormones like
birth control pills, advancing age and also a family history of spider veins.
Sometimes overexposure to the sun can cause spider veins to occur in the
exposed parts of the body such as nose and face and these appear typically as unsightly
red or pink clusters.
Spider veins treatment
- Sclerotherapy - spider vein injection
- Laser treatment
These can either be employed
independently or in combination.
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a liquid agent directly into the
spider veins through a tiny needle, thereby causing them to contract and
collapse in the process. This procedure is adopted in case of medium to large
spider veins. The therapy is relatively painless and one can expect about 50%
improvement in spider veins following Sclerotherapy session.
Laser treatment for spider veins
Laser treatment is found to be most effective for small and medium sized spider veins, whereas large spider
veins can best be treated with Sclerotherapy. A person with spider veins on the
face would rather opt for laser therapy than Sclerotherapy. The laser treatment
does not require any sedatives or pain medications or injections or local
Transcutaneous laser is used to treat the smallest surface veins. The veins must be close to the surface
because the skin can get easily damaged by the ablative energy of the laser.
Usually two to four treatment sessions may be required to achieve the desired results. Although laser
treatment may cause minor bruising and redness of the skin, these are bound to
improve over time. Recovery is almost immediate in laser treatments.
Who can undergo laser surgery for removal of spider veins?
- Physically healthy
- Psychologically stable
- Non smoker
- Keen to change appearance
superficial spider veins that will respond to laser treatment
particular fair skin tone for the type of laser used
not used Accutane for atleast previous eighteen months
not have unusual scar formations such as keloids
- Possesses sufficient knowledge about the laser
- Is realistic enough to accept the outcome of the
How effective is laser treatment for spider veins?
One can expect about 70% to 80% improvement in the appearance of spider veins on the face and 30% to 40%
improvement in leg spider veins after each laser treatment. The laser has the
capability to selectively target and destroy red coloration of the spider veins
appearing close to the surface of the skin without damaging the surrounding
tissue. Laser procedure is quick and no anesthesia is necessary. The skin is
more uniform and natural in appearance after a laser treatment.
Cost of spider vein laser surgery
Laser treatments for spider vein removal would cost approximately $ 300 to 450
per session. If the veins are extensive and if the treatment is to be performed
by a medical physician rather than a supervised technician, it is bound to cost
more. A Sclerotherapy session would cost anywhere between $ 100 and $ 400.
How is laser spider vein removal done?
Initially, a calibration session is performed on the patient, wherein laser is tried on very
small portions of the skin. This is done to determine the laser best suited to
the particular patient's skin. The optimal setting is used for the first full
The medical practitioner or an assistant cleanses the face of the patient to remove oils on
the skin. Superficial blood vessels are removed by a brief intense emission of
light emanating from the laser. This is done very precisely at controlled
levels of penetration.
In the laser removal, light is made to pass through the skin and pulses of energy are sent
to the targeted vein. Care is taken not to harm the surrounding tissues. As the
blood absorbs the light, it heats up and causes the targeted vein to shrink
which eventually leads to its disappearance. One can hear zapping sounds and
smell of smoke as the laser works. The patient is exposed to a minimal amount
of heat only. The treated area is covered with an antibiotic ointment in order
to eliminate any surface bacteria.
Laser technology has evolved and improved over the last couple of years. Newer laser treatment methods include
cooling by contact with metal devices, cold air or small blasts of liquid
nitrogen to diminish pain and minimize the effects of heat on tissues.
Spider Vein laser surgery procedure
It may vary between fifteen minutes to even an hour depending upon the size of the spider vein treated and
the severity of the problem involved. In most cases, it requires more than one
treatment session to achieve best results. Laser removal is performed as an
outpatient surgery in the doctor's clinic and there is no need for the patient
to stay in the hospital.
A slight burning and stinging sensation may be felt when the laser penetrates the skin. But the pain will be minimal
and there is no need for anesthesia. The feeling is similar to a rubber band
snapping the skin.
It is essential to inform the doctor about any
allergies that the patient might have for foods, drugs, and environmental
It is also necessary to inform the doctor about
exposure to significant amount of radiation if any, history of unusual or poor
scarring, cold sores like herpes and shingles.
Tell the doctor in case of any previous facial
The doctor should be informed of any serious medical conditions and the medications that the patient is consuming. For instance, the
medication Accutane can affect the skin's ability to heal after laser
treatment, and it is necessary to let the doctor know of previous Accutane
intake if any.
It is better to avoid aspirin and aspirin-containing
medicines for two weeks prior the procedure.
Some redness and swelling of the treated area can be seen after the laser procedure which should disappear
within a few days. The veins turn purple in color resembling a small bruise
which will gradually fade within a week to ten days. Ice packs are recommended
to reduce the swelling. Frozen aloe vera gel is also commonly applied.
Recovery depends on the extent of treatment and the individual patient's capacity to heal. Redness and purple
discoloration may persist for several weeks or even longer. But the redness
will gradually lighten to a pink tone before more natural color appears.
Long term effects of laser surgery
Laser removal of spider veins may not remove or erase all imperfections of the skin. Nevertheless, most patients
are satisfied with the results. The unsightly and cosmetically disfiguring red
veins return to a more natural and uniform state over time. But laser removal
cannot deter the normal effects of aging and the treatment cannot prevent the
occurrence of new spider veins in due course of time.
Risks involved in spider vein laser surgery
There could be semi permanent or permanent skin lightening in the treated areas. The skin becomes hyper
pigmented and darker immediately following the laser surgery. The darkened skin
can be treated successfully with a bleaching agent. The lightened skin tone can
be more problematic. While some patients prefer to live with the lightened skin
area, some others choose to undergo medical tattooing to even out the skin
Burns or injuries may be caused by the heat from the laser. It is therefore essential to follow the
instructions and advice given by the surgeon pre and post laser surgery to
avoid potential complications.
Laser removal of spider veins
- Laser removal can be performed in conjunction with Sclerotherapy.
- The treating doctor considers the size and depth of
the area to be treated, other factors in deciding method, combination of
methods that is best for the patient.
- Choose a highly experienced medical practitioner. This is mainly because of the fact that there is a high degree of
variability in the light absorption of skin between patients; skin burns
may be caused inadvertently leading to permanent change in pigmentation.
- The laser pulses may be significantly more painful than micro sclerotherapy. Laser therapy is more appropriate for smaller
areas than medium or large ones.
- It is necessary to eliminate any associated feeder vessels by other methods before laser treatment as otherwise laser
treatment will not be effective until the spider veins no longer have a
significant blood supply.
Laser surgery for spider vein is becoming increasingly popular as it is minimally invasive; virtually pain free
and unlike other surgeries requires no general anesthesia. And although, laser
vein cannot remove or correct all the imperfections of the treated area, the
overall results are quite successful that patients feel immensely satisfied
with the treatment.