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How safe is spider vein treatment?

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For some individuals, spider or varicose veins are minor cosmetic annoyances.  For others, however, these abnormal vessels undermine self-confidence.  Spider veins are very common, particularly among women.  Sometimes varicose vessels cause discomfort and medical complications.  Understanding more about vein disease, the formation of abnormal vessels, and safe therapies is important when considering spider or varicose vein treatment.

Spider or Varicose Vein?

What spider and varicose veins share is their cause, according to the SUNY Upstate Medical University.  Veins contain one-way valves that help propel blood from the extremities toward the heart.  These valves prevent blood from falling backward due to gravity.

When a valves malfunctions because of disease, age, or injury, blood leaks backward and pools behind it.  Eventually, pooled blood can stretch the vein’s walls, causing a spider or a varicose vein.

Spider veins are small red or blue vessels that sometimes cluster in patterns that look like a spider’s web.  These flat vessels develop near the skin’s surface, most often on the legs or the face.

In contrast, varicose veins are bulging blue or purple vessels that often have a ropelike appearance.  These large veins typically form in the legs.  Beyond cosmetic issues, they can progress to a vein disease known as chronic venous insufficiency and cause pain and complications such as ulcers.

Before deciding to undergo treatment to eliminate spider veins, many patients wonder how safe the options are.  Once they have a consultation at a vein clinic, they are reassured that therapies available make treating spider veins a safe choice.

Spider and Varicose Vein Treatment Options

When conservative treatment such as shedding extra weight or wearing compression stockings fails to manage spider or varicose veins, vein doctors are able to recommend a number of convenient procedures to eliminate these troublesome vessels.

The basic procedures to destroy varicose vessels are laser and radiofrequency ablation and microphlebectomy.  Vascular surgeons perform these non-invasive treatments on an outpatient basis.

Sclerotherapy is the gold standard for treating spider veins.  It is sometimes also useful for eliminating small varicose veins.   Medical News Today describes it as a non-surgical option in which the vein doctor uses a tiny needle to inject a medication into a vein, causing it to swell.  Swelling cuts off the flow of blood, causing the vessel to shrink and disappear.

Vascular surgeons consider sclerotherapy an extremely safe procedure for these reasons, according to UCSF Health:

  • The procedure requires no general anesthesia.
  • Treatment sessions usually last just 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Physicians can treat multiple veins during one session.
  • Applying compression helps to keep blood out of the vessel injected.
  • Patients get up and walk around soon after treatment to help prevent blood clots.

All medical procedures carry some risk.  Any side effects from sclerotherapy are usually temporary: stinging or discomfort at an injection site, muscle cramping, or swelling of feet or ankles.

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