A trick of light caused a shadow on my leg, I mistook it for a spider vein and nearly had a conniption. My cellulite is alive and thriving, but no veins yet (praise be to the vein gods). I say ‘yet’ because I have a 50-55% chance of getting them. All women do.
Being summertime and all, I figured this would be a good time to talk about ways to get rid of spider veins.
The good news is that, with the latest technology, you don’t have to live with them. The first step is making sure that what you have are indeed spider veins.
What are Spider Veins
Spider veins are small clusters of veins close to the skin that resemble a spider web. They are caused by a back up of blood in the veins and they come in red, blue and purple.
I’ve included the illustration above because it’s important not to confuse them with varicose veins that can be indicative of greater health issues, such as heart problems or blood clots.
Spider veins are largely aesthetic.
Cause of Spider Veins
Super scary to know but spider veins are caused from the bite of the Quis Podex Spider which is indigenous to cities in low altitudes. NOT. But the true causes of spider veins are just as frightening for the sheer quantity.
Hormonal changes, obesity, birth control, prolonged standing, prolonged sitting, age, exposure to the sun, injuries, smoking, and pregnancy (we’ve all had a hot friend with flawless legs that get pregnant and end up with a road map of Wichita on her legs, right?).
When our leg muscles squeeze they should push blood up to your heart against gravity, but if you stand a lot or have too much pressure on your lower body through weight gain or pregnancy, then you have a chance of restricting that blood flow and developing spider veins.
They are also largely hereditary which is why some people are more likely to get them than others. If your parents have them and you have not yet been afflicted, you may want to keep reading since there are precautions you can take to stack the cards more in your favor.
Ways to Prevent Spider Veins
The truth is there is no sure way to prevent spider veins, but there are certainly things you can do to help.
Support or Compression Stockings
Support stockings are the lesser of two evils, since they’re a little thinner than compression stockings, and can be found as lace thigh highs. Both can increase the pressure in your legs and improve the blood circulation, hindering the chance of backed up blood in the veins.
If I had a job that required a lot of standing or I were pregnant, I would totally be rocking those compression stockings whenever possible! Or at least in the privacy of my own home.
Stop Smoking Pretty Girls!
If you are a smoker, then spider veins are the least of your concerns (yellow teeth, wrinkles, and, oh yeah, lung cancer), but if these ugly squigglies can give you an incentive to quit, then I’m happy to tell you that smokers have a larger chance of getting spider veins.
If you sit behind a desk all day, or anywhere for that matter, there’s no better way to get that blood circulating than by making time to walk around a bit.
Elevate Your Legs
If you can’t always find the time to get up and walk around, elevating your legs can help with the circulation as well (plus, if you’re in a cubicle, your cube mate is going to really appreciate this).
If you’re reading this article though your probably more interested in how to get rid of them so lets get to the heart of the matter.
Top 3 Treatments for Spider Veins
There are several options to try. I’m going to talk about the most popular first, sclerotherapy.
Sclerotherapy is a procedure that involves the injection of a chemical, directly into the vein, to cause it to collapse and go away.
How it Goes Down
The practitioner will use a needle to inject a liquid cocktail of sodium chloride and lidocaine into the vein. The sodium chloride causes the vein to swell then collapse and no longer show up under the skin. It’s not painful because the lidocaine numbs your skin as it goes in.
After the treatment you may have to wear compression stockings for a bit to keep the veins closed.
Risks of Sclerotherapy
The main risk of sclerotherapy is residual pigmentation. This means that veins go away but they leave a nice little brown line in it’s place like this:
If you end up with residual pigmentation, the only way to get rid of it is with an IPL laser. Kind of defeats the purpose. This is not common, but it did happen to a girlfriend of mine, so I know for certain that it can.
Being that there is a chance, albeit slim but still a chance, that you may end up using the IPL anyhow, I’m going to talk about the IPL treatment for spider veins next.
Cost of Sclerotherapy
It could take a few treatments to remove them all and you can expect the initial result to take 6 to 8 weeks. The cost varies depending on where you live and the area being treated, but you can count on it ranging from $300 to $500 per treatment.
Intense Pulse Light Therapy (IPL) for Spider Veins
IPL for spider veins is the delivery of intense pulsed light into the skin, which uses heat to damage the walls of the vein causing them to collapse.
How it Goes Down
The practitioner will first apply a topical anesthetic to the area being treated. If not, then I’d ask for it because even numb you’re going to feel it! The IPL device is then placed over the effected area sending light pulses into your skin.
It will feel like a rubberband snap. Not super comfortable but not terrible – unless of course you don’t have the area numbed first. But remember, you are getting rid of a spider vein (so suck it up!).
In the next 2 to 4 weeks the veins will turn a dark red then fade away. This could take several treatments depending how your skin reacts.
Risk of IPL
The only risk is that you don’t get the result that you want after just one treatment.
Cost of IPL
The cost of IPL ranges from $200 to $400.
ND:Yag Laser for Spider Veins
The ND:Yag laser coagulates and destroys spider veins.
How it Goes Down
The laser point is placed immediately over the skin being treated and you can watch the veins disappear. Others get darker then disappear within a couple of weeks. Mr. BeautyBlackBook used this on a patch of spider veins on his ankles and it worked, but he said it hurt too much and won’t go back to get the rest done!
Plus he won’t let me get a photo of them. I would anyway but he’s a pretty light sleeper so you’re going to have to take my word for it, chicas!
Risk of ND:Yag Laser
If the practitioner has the unit on too high you may blister, but that remedies itself in a few days.
Cost of ND: Yag Laser
Practitioners usually charge for this procedure in 15 minute time increments which range from $150 to $200. Mr. BeautyBlackBook did his nose and the main veins in his ankles in about 10 minutes.
I’ve never done sclerotherapy and I’ve only used IPL for hyperpygmentation or dark spots and the ND:Yag for capillaries on my nose (which I will be posting soon), so it’s hard for me to tell you which route to go.
However, I KNOW, based on my hubby’s results, I would first go with the ND:Yag, see how it worked, then I would bite the bullet and go for the sclerotherapy.
I say this because, in my particular case, IPL doesn’t have a giant effect on my capillaries on my face so I’m thinking they might not be too effective for veins on other areas on my body. However, I have never done an IPL with the main goal being veins…
Hope this helps!