Fortunately, spider veins are seldom serious medical problems. However, for some individuals, they steal self-confidence. The so-called gold standard of spider vein treatment is sclerotherapy. Learning about these vessels and this procedure helps patients understand whether they are good candidates for this treatment.
Overview of Spider Veins
These abnormal blood vessels get their name from their appearance, which resembles a spider’s web. They develop when a small group of veins near the skin’s surface enlarge. The University of Chicago Medicine says they are typically red or purple and most frequently develop on a patient’s legs or face, more frequently in females than in males.
While these spidery veins are similar to varicose veins, they usually form closer to the surface of the skin. They also tend to be much smaller than varicose vessels.
How Sclerotherapy Works
The use of this outpatient procedure in the United States dates to the 1930s, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In one session, a vascular specialist is usually able to get rid of between 50 and 80 percent of unwanted vessels.
More than 90 percent of sclerotherapy patients respond to the treatment. However, since no procedure to eliminate a spider vein problem prevents new vessels from forming, some individuals return from time to time for additional sessions.
Sclerotherapy utilizes injections into targeted veins. It is sometimes also useful for small varicose veins. Many physicians combine ultrasound with sclerotherapy for the most precise results.
The physician inserts a very fine needle into each targeted vein to inject a special substance called a sclerosant. The sclerosant irritates the vein, causing it to collapse and eventually disappear. Normal veins nearby pick up its circulatory duties.
While MedicineNet reports that some sclerosants are more painful than others, most patients report very little discomfort beyond a mild burning sensation. Sessions usually last an hour or less.
Who is a Good Candidate for Sclerotherapy?
The path to eliminating a spider vein problem begins at a consultation with a physician who specializes in vascular issues. After taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam, the doctor will determine whether a patient is a likely candidate for the procedure.
Acceptable candidates usually have these attributes:
- They have realistic expectations of the treatment and results.
- They are not pregnant or breastfeeding and have not been pregnant for a minimum of three months.
- They are between 30 and 60 years old.
- They are able to follow the detailed instructions issued before and after sclerotherapy.
- They acknowledge that the treatment will not stop the formation of future veins.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, these criteria preclude becoming a candidate:
- Desired vessels could be used for a future bypass
- Individual has a history of clots or has clotting issues requiring individual analysis
- Patient is bedridden.