Laser Spider Vein Treatment
Spider veins, or "starbursts," are so named because these tiny veins just beneath the skin often radiate out from a central point, reminiscent of the shape of a spider. They may also appear as fine, separate lines, as a web-like maze, or as "branches" from a single "trunk" of a tree-shaped form. Spider veins can develop on any part of the body, including the face, thighs, calves, and ankles.
Although their exact cause is unknown, it is known that spider veins are related to abnormal blood flow in the affected veins. Any condition or activity that puts pressure on leg veins (e.g., gaining weight and sitting or standing for long periods of time), can contribute to their development. In women, spider veins often appear during pregnancy. Other contributing factors include sustaining an injury in the affected area, taking medications that affect hormones, such as birth control pills, advanced age, and a family history of spider veins. Spider veins on the nose or face, which typically appear as unsightly red or pink clusters, may also be related to overexposure to the sun.
Although many spider veins in other parts of the body are most often removed through a process called sclerotherapy, facial spider veins are usually too small to be effectively treated in this way. When the veins are small and close to the skin's surface, laser removal is often the most effective treatment.
If you're considering laser removal of spider veins, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult a plastic surgeon who is board certified or has completed a residency program that includes instruction in this procedure.
*The national average cost for spider vein removal is $323. Fees within various regions may vary depending on whether the doctor’s practice is in an urban, suburban or rural area.
*Laser treatment alone may be adequate for treating tiny spider veins such as those around the feet and ankles.
Laser spider vein treatment produces permanent results.
- What are some of the most common benefits of this surgery?
- How is laser removal performed?
- How long does the procedure take?
- Will I need to stay in a hospital?
- How much pain is there?
- What can I expect after the procedure?
- What is the recovery period like?
- What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
- Ideal candidate:
- Other important information:
- Risks and limitations:
What are some of the most common benefits of laser spider vein removal?
The laser is used to selectively target and destroy the red coloration of the spider veins, which are usually close to the surface of the skin, without damaging the surrounding tissue. The procedure is relatively quick, and no anesthesia is needed. After treatment, the skin can be noticeably more uniform and natural in appearance.
How is laser removal performed?
First, the doctor or an assistant will cleanse your face to remove oils on the skin. Next, brief intense, emissions of light from the laser will be used to remove the superficial blood vessels at precisely controlled levels of penetration.
You may undergo an initial calibration session, where several settings of the laser are tried on very small portions of the skin. In this case, you'll return a few days to a week later to determine which setting worked best for you. The optimal setting will then be used for your first full session.
As the laser works, you may hear it zapping, and smell smoke. Afterward, the treated area will be covered with an antibiotic ointment to eliminate any surface bacteria.
How long does the procedure take?
The amount of time varies from 15 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the area being treated, as well as the severity of the problem. Usually, more than one treatment may be needed to achieve the desired results.
Will I need to stay in a hospital?
Laser spider vein removal is usually performed in a doctor's office, and a hospital stay is not necessary.
How much pain is there?
You may feel a slight burning or stinging sensation as the laser penetrates your skin. However, pain is minimal and no anesthesia is required. Many patients liken the feeling to a rubber band snapping on the skin.
What can I expect after the procedure?
You may experience some redness and swelling of the treated area, which should disappear within a few days. Generally, the veins will turn a purple color that resembles a small bruise, and then gradually fade within five to 10 days. Ice packs are usually recommended to reduce the swelling. Frozen aloe vera gel is also commonly used.
What is the recovery period like?
Recovery times depend on the extent of the treatment and the individual's capacity to heal. Some redness or purple discoloration may persist for several weeks, or longer. The redness will gradually lighten to a pink tone, and then to a lighter, more natural color.
What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
Although laser removal of spider veins may not erase all imperfections of the skin, most patients are satisfied with the results. After treatment, the unsightly red veins are significantly diminished and the skin is returned to a more natural, uniform state. It is important to remember, however, that laser removal does not deter the normal effects of aging and that treatment does not prevent the occurrence of new spider veins.
In general, the best candidates for laser removal of spider veins:
- Are physically healthy
- Are psychologically stable
- Do not smoke
- Want to change their appearance
- Have superficial spider veins that will respond to laser treatment
- Have fair skin or the appropriate skin tone for the type of laser used
- Are not taking Accutane, nor have taken it for the previous 18 months
- Do not have unusual scar formations, such as keloids
- Are well informed about the procedure
- Hold realistic expectations about the outcome
The above is only a partial list of the criteria that your surgeon will consider in determining whether or not this procedure is appropriate for you.
Other important information:
Sometimes laser removal is performed in conjunction with sclerotherapy. Your doctor will consider your expectations, the size and depth of the area to be treated, and other factors in deciding which method, or combination of methods, is best for you.
Laser technology has continued to evolve and has dramatically improved over the last several year. Newer treatments 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 the tissues.
Risks and limitations:
Semi-permanent or permanent skin lightening may occur in the treated areas. The skin may also become hyperpigmented (darker) immediately following the surgery.
Darkened skin can often be successfully treated with a bleaching cream. Lightened skin tone can be more problematic. In this case, most patients elect to live with the lightened area, but others undergo medical tattooing to even out the skin tone.
Heat from the laser may cause burns or injuries. To reduce the risks involved in this procedure, carefully follow all of your surgeon's instructions, both before and after surgery.
The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction to this procedure and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation.
*Disclaimer: Costs source: According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), nationally in 2010. Most surgeons offer convenient payments plans for this procedure. Cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facility, hospital stay, and other related expenses. Costs may also vary depending on location.