Warm Weather Is Coming: Say "So Long" to Spider Veins With Sclerotherapy


Spider veins are very small veins near the surface of the skin that occur in both women and men, and are a frequent source of embarrassment. Thankfully, simple treatment can make them a thing of the past.

Spider veins are distinctly different from varicose veins. Varicose veins result from damaged valves in larger veins that result in pooling and dilation of vein as a result of gravity pulling on the column of blood. The damaged veins are visible as bumps along the course of the serpiginous, enlarged vein. These veins are not only unsightly, but can lead to tissue damage in severe cases.

Spider veins, on the other hand, are typically much smaller, measuring less then a millimeter in diameter (less than the width of a match). While they do occur in men, they're more prevalent in women. The causes of spider veins include circulating estrogen, trauma, standing still for too long, pregnancy, and genetic predisposition. Although they can be unsightly for some, they typically pose no danger.

Interestingly, what is seen is not the vein. The vein is actually the same color as surrounding tissue. What is seen is the deoxygenated, blue blood passing through the vein. The vein wall is very thin and nearly translucent, and lies close to the surface of the skin.

Sclerotherapy is an in-office procedure to improve or totally eliminate spider veins. Sclero means “scar.” The procedure involves using a very small butterfly needle to inject a concentrated sodium chloride (salt) solution into the spider vein. This solution causes the vein walls to get inflamed and “sticky”. As a result, the vein walls stick together and scar down so no more blood flows through them — no more spiders.

Sclerotherapy is very effective and safe. (Sometimes a sore can develop if the solution leaks out of a vein, but this is not common.) Smaller spiders may permanently disappear immediately, while larger ones may take up to six weeks to resolve or may take multiple treatments. Smaller varicose veins may also sometimes be effectively treated with sclerotherapy.

During the procedure, patients frequently report a stinging sensation (the vein walls have sensation), and occasional cramping, but the discomfort passes quickly. After the treatment, the legs are taped in order to compress the veins. Patients are advised to take it easy and keep legs elevated. Tape is removed at bedtime.

Normal activities can be resumed the next day. Bruising can occur at the treatment site. During the healing period, the treated veins may appear darker than before. This may last for 6 weeks or a little longer, so it's important to to undergo the treatment before you think you'll be wearing shorts the majority of the time.

Watch this 9-second video to see sclerotherapy in action!

Article by
Dallas Plastic Surgeon