What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins (also known as telangiectasia or vascular ectasia) are small (0.5 to 1.0 mm), dilated, red or blue blood vessels that appear close to the skin’s surface. While they are common on the legs, they often appear on the face (especially around the nose and on the cheeks), in addition to the neck and chest. These small blue and red vessels can appear virtually anywhere on the body, and are more common in individuals with fairer skin types. Other factors include increasing age and exposure to extreme temperatures and environmental conditions (especially the sun, but also the wind, cold).
In many cases, these blood vessels develop with no underlying medical condition. However, in some cases, spider veins can be associated with systemic disease (some very serious). As mentioned in the previous section, rosacea can present with dilated blood vessels on the face, but so can more serious skin diseases such as Lupus.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Spider Veins
Patients with dilated or discernable blood vessels, particularly when located on the face and legs), would benefit from examination by a dermatologist. A dermatologist can help to determine the correct diagnosis and discuss the appropriate treatment options available.
The treatment of increasing or unsightly blood vessels on the face or body is often done for cosmetic reasons. These small blood vessels are most commonly treated with a variety of laser or light energy devices. The choice of one laser over another depends on several factors, including size, pressure, location, and depth of the vessel being treated.
Why Treat Spider Veins or Varicose Veins on the Legs?
Patients with blood vessels on the lower extremities can treat them for cosmetic or medical reasons (oftentimes for both reasons). Blood vessels can be unsightly, to the point of disfiguring in some cases, and can make a patient feel self-conscious, resulting in low sense of self-esteem. From a medical perspective, damaged veins causing pain or fatigue can significantly decrease the quality of life of the patient.
Patients may develop different types of blood vessels on the legs of different sizes and for different reasons. Some patients will develop increasing leg veins for genetic reasons or due to lifestyle or work related habits (such as crossing one’s legs, or prolonged standing on a hard floor). Some vessels are associated with pregnancy while others can be associated with a variety of systemic conditions (venous hypertension). Of course, some can develop for no apparent reason at all.
While sclerotherapy is a very useful treatment option for larger leg veins or veins on the back side of the hands, sclerotherapy is much less commonly used on the face, compared to using laser therapy in this area.
To learn more about sclerotherapy at Art of SKIN Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, click here. (link to sclerotherapy page)
Laser or Light Device
When either a laser or light device is used, light energy is absorbed by the blood vessels (both by the vessel wall and by the blood circulating within the wall) and converted to heat. This subsequently damages the blood vessel walls in a controlled and specific fashion. The damaged blood vessels are then absorbed and carried away by the lymphatic system, removing the discernible blood vessels from the skin.
How Effective is Laser or Light Device Treatment?
Blood vessel treatment by laser and IPL (intense pulse light) only takes a short period of time, from 10 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of vessels and size of the treatment area. Unlike Rosacea, a method that generally requires multiple treatments (ie 3 -5), patients with a solitary blood vessel or just a few blood vessels will commonly only require one or two treatments for complete resolution of the vessel. Laser treatment of blood vessels is completed quickly, with very little discomfort. With the modern technology available at Art of SKIN Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, the downtime is minimal to none.
The results of laser therapy on individual blood vessels are commonly permanent. Depending on the individual patient however, some degree of maintenance may be beneficial in cases where there is development of new vessels in the future.
Treatment at Art of SKIN Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Surgery
At Art of SKIN Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, we have a variety of laser and light energy devices at our disposal, including:
- Cynergy PDL (Pulse Dye Laser – the established gold standard for blood vessel treatment), Cynergy Nd:YAG 1064 laser with Multiplex Technology
- Elite MPX Nd:YAG 1064 laser and IPL
- Palomar Icon IPL
- Alexandrite 755 nm laser with Multiplex technology for treating different sizes and types of blood vessels
This variety of laser and IPL devices gives us the most advanced technology on the market, allowing us to choose the right technology for the particular patient and task that is safe and effective.
If you have blood vessels on the face (or anywhere else) that you are bothered by, we encourage you to call Art of SKIN Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Surgery for a consultation. Our experienced medical and cosmetic staff will advise you on your skin condition and give you the available options for improving your particular skin condition, to the degree that you want and that fits within your schedule.
Laser Treatment for Spider Veins/Telangiectasia of the Legs
In many cases, blood vessels can now be treated in by laser therapy for those patients wanting to avoid sclerotherapy, or when sclerotherapy is contraindicated. Most spider veins and telangiectasia on the legs can be easily treated with excellent results using laser therapy.
Patients with only a few small vessels on the legs wanting a cosmetic improvement, will often choose laser therapy. We use the Elite MPX 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser, the Alexandrite 755 nm, the Cynergy PDL, and the Cynergy 1064 nm YAG, both systems with mulitplex technology to quickly and effectively treat spider vessels in the legs. Multiplex technology allows for synchronous treatment of a target blood vessel with 2 different lasers or light sources, ie the Alexandrite (755 nm) and the YAG (1064 nm) or the PDL and the YAG, for optimal results.
Laser Vein Therapy for Reticular Veins of the Legs
Laser vein therapy is a minimally invasive treatment that uses a laser to seal off larger reticular veins, diverting blood flow to healthy veins. For leg vessels of 2 -3 mm, we use either the Elite MPX 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser or the Cynergy 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser. The procedure can be done quickly, usually in under an hour.
Patients with larger reticular veins or varicose veins (greater than 3 mm) usually have more effective results with either sclerotherapy (including foam). Severe varicose veins can be treated with EVLA. Vein stripping is still done, but much less often, and involves physically pulling the damaged vessel out of the skin. This procedure requires some sort of anesthesia and is associated with more complications and downtime as compared with the alternatives available now.
At Art of SKIN Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, we have the medical and cosmetic expertise as well as the technology to safely and effectively treat any problems you may be experiencing with your veins. If you are concerned about your veins, please schedule a visit with us.
Note that new patients not previously seen at our centre and wishing to have a medical assessment of their veins by Dr. Lubitz (complete vascular assessment) will require a referral from their physician.