Spider veins

Stings, zaps worth enduring to eliminate spider veins

Heather Farnsworth took a deep breath and slid her laser goggles into place. A certified medical assistant, she’d administered many cosmetic procedures, from permanent makeup application to chemical peels and Botox injections. She knew what she was doing.

More than that, she owed it to herself. Since experiencing a hormone shift during her first pregnancy, she’d begun to notice small clusters of “meaningless blood vessels” branching out like trees on the back of her legs.

“They had a spidery appearance,” recalls Heather, “web-like and unsightly.”

At thirty, Heather was tired of seeing the telangiectasias—commonly called spider veins—making their mark on her body. She wanted to wear shorts on the weekends without feeling self-conscious.

And so, with steely resolve, she gave herself the first zap with the Lumenis Laser.

It’s always a little tough when you’re hitting the trigger yourself, especially if you expect discomfort, but Heather persevered.

“I compare the feeling to bacon grease popping on you,” says Heather. “But when you know the results, it’s worth it.”

Heather’s entire session took about twenty minutes, which is typical for smaller areas needing treatment; larger areas can take about an hour to complete.

“Some people come in with spots of vessels that need laser treatment, and others come in with whole thighs and calves that are covered. The larger the spot, the longer it takes to treat,” says Heather, who works at Georgetown Plastic Surgery.

Currently, the market offers two main treatments for spider veins: in sclerotherapy treatment, either hypertonic saline or polidocanol solution is injected into the veins. In laser treatment, a laser breaks down the vessels.

“If the vessels are large enough to inject, that treatment is almost painless,” Heather says. “No burning or stinging. . . . But the laser can be quite painful, and I try to warn patients beforehand.”

To minimize the pain and adverse side effects, Heather recommends that her patients avoid sun exposure and tanning beds for at least two to three weeks prior to treatment. Because the laser zeroes in on pigmentation—in this case, the dark-colored blood vessel—those with fair and light complexions tend to have better results with laser treatments than those with darker skin tones.

Despite the discomfort, Heather is thrilled with her results.

“Fortunately, I haven’t had any new ones pop up,” she says. “But if they did, I’d go through treatment again in a heartbeat. It really works.”


For more information on spider veins and their removal, visit the Georgetown Plastic Surgery website.

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