Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias, often get confused with varicose veins, but there is a difference. By definition, varicose veins are bigger than spider veins, which are surface veins smaller than 1 mm. While varicose veins bulge out of the skin and cause swelling and pain, spider veins generally are simply a cosmetic issue. About 40 percent of women and 25 percent of men experience spider veins at some point. The most common -- and best -- treatment is known as cosmetic sclerotherapy.

What Is Cosmetic Sclerotherapy?

Cosmetic sclerotherapy is a minimally-invasive therapy in which a doctor such as an interventional radiologist or a trained physician assistant injects a special solution called a sclerosant into these spider veins. The veins seal shut, impeding blood flow to those particular veins. Instead, the blood moves to healthier veins in the same area of the body. Because there is no blood flow to the unsightly veins, the visibility reduces, and the vein ultimately disappears.

When Do You Need Treatment?

Spider veins occur for various reasons, some of which are unknown. Genetics, injuries, small repetitive trauma, varicose veins, and hormones can contribute to their development. The symptoms include visible purple, red, or blue veins which usually occur in a pattern similar to tree branching out or like a spider, hence the name. They can cause mild itching but are often present without any pain or swelling. Although treatment is not medically necessary for most patients, many still prefer to do it for aesthetic reasons. Anyone with spider veins and general good health is a candidate for the procedure. Unsuitable candidates include those who are pregnant, have an allergy to the solution, or have certain conditions which your doctor will screen for.

What Is the Treatment Procedure?

The procedure takes place in a comfortable office setting at the doctor's office. After an examination, the doctor identifies the troublesome veins, which might require the use of an ultrasound or specialized flashlights in some instances. The doctor or physician assistant injects the medication carefully into both the spider veins and the veins that lead to them using a tiny needle, one which is much smaller than the typical one used to draw blood. All the spider veins that can be safely treated are addressed at the appointment. However, you might need to have more than one treatment with a six to twelve-week gap in between. The number of treatments varies for different patients and is based on the number of spider veins, the expectations of the patients, and whether new spider veins form. Although there is a high success rate, spider veins do tend to recur in many patients.

What Is the Recovery Time?

Sclerotherapy is a minimally-invasive treatment with little to no down time. There is no anesthesia, so you do not have to worry about any potential complications of that. The typical side effects are minimal, such as itching, swelling, and discolored skin. You might experience bruising in the area in which the doctor made the injection. Generally, there is no need for stockings afterward and most people return to normal daily activities immediately. Because spider veins are not medically necessary to treat, sclerotherapy is considered a cosmetic procedure. As such, most insurance companies do not cover it and payment is out-of-pocket. Contact us if you have any questions and we'd be happy to help you learn more!