Spider veins (also called telangiectasias) are clusters of tiny blood vessels that develop close to the surface of the skin. They are often red, blue, or purple; and they have the appearance of a spiderweb. They are commonly found on the face and legs.
Spider veins are caused by increased pressure in the veins. Doctors don’t know exactly why some people develop spider veins and others don’t, but they do know that the tendency to get them is hereditary, and that they’re more common as you get older. It’s also known that people who stand for a long time, such as nurses and teachers, tend to increase the amount of pressure in the veins of the legs and are more likely to develop spider veins.
Laser vein treatment, which is done in a doctor’s office or clinic usually takes less than an hour. The procedure uses a focused beam of light to target the vein that is selected for treatment, and because the beam is focused it is careful not to affect nearby skin, tissue and veins. As the laser heats up the vein is destroyed, then, over a period of four to six weeks, the vein is reabsorbed by the body and disappears.
The most common laser used to treat spider veins is the Nd: YAG laser system. It is a hand-held device and also has a cooling tip to minimize discomfort during the therapy.
The Nd: YAG laser pierces the skin and penetrates the superficial blood vessel. The heat generated from the laser coagulates the blood inside the vessel, causing it to collapse and seal. Over the next few weeks, the vessel will disappear and all the blood will be removed by the body’s scavenging cells. The newer laser treatments allow the delivery of a precise dosage of energy to each blood vessel without injuring any nearby structures.
During treatment, however, you may feel a slight tingling sensation as the laser fires. Most current day lasers have a cooling system that prevents the tip of the laser from getting too hot and resulting in burns or damage to the area.
There are no major preparations required before the laser treatment, but you will want to avoid sun exposure, aspirin, alcohol and smoking for at least a week prior to the procedure.
As for the day of treatment, avoid all creams, lotions and moisturizers on the area that is going to be treated. Also, wear comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the body part(s) being treated.
All individuals are evaluated prior to laser therapy. Spider veins do not cause symptoms and are of a cosmetic concern only. For those who have symptoms, further investigation is done to ensure that they do not have varicose veins. Laser therapy is most effective for the very small spider veins and not used to treat large varicose veins.
It is generally recommended that the treatments be spaced four to six weeks apart. If new veins appear, additional treatments are required for optimum results.
The skin above the veins will have a reddish, cat-scratch appearance. This generally disappears over the next two days.
The risks associated with laser vein therapy are minimal. Your eyes will be shielded during the treatments. Most facilities use state-of-the-art cooling systems, thus the treatments are low risk and relatively pain-free.
Depending on the size and number of veins, two to six treatments will be needed. The treatments are usually done 4-6 weeks apart. Those with a tendency towards vascular problems will most likely require additional treatments.
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