Noticeable leg veins…the nemesis of almost everyone at some point in our lives. They are extremely common, but that doesn’t make them any less unappealing.
The type of bothersome leg veins impacts how they are able to be treated. If you have the bulgy, rope-like varicose veins, you’ll likely need to see a vascular surgeon as these may require a surgery to remedy. If you have the smaller, redder spider veins, you have more options. You can consider sclerotherapy, which are injections with a small needle into the veins to irritate the lining and cause them to disappear. Your other option is laser treatments, which use a focused beam to heat the inside of the vessel causing a similar effect. With either treatment, you’ll likely need 1-4 sessions to get desired effect and probable maintenance every year or so (depending on how fast you acquire them).
Sounds like an odd thing to do – get rid of blood vessels – but treatments are safe as these are vessels we don’t really have a need for. Both are options that most get great results from, but more and more individuals are choosing laser therapy just due to the simple fact that you don’t have to be poked with a needle over and over again. Also, if your provider isn’t experienced, the irritating solution used to go in the vessels may not be placed correctly causing a skin wound. Not permanent, but not fun when that happens. New lasers with shorter pulse durations have a very low incidence of “burning” patients like longer pulse lasers can do, so it may be a safer option as well as fewer side effects.
After either treatment, your legs will actually look worse for a week or two. This is normal and expected! The veins may be redder and bruised appearing, but after about 1 month you will start liking what you see. Although things may start to improve, it generally takes 2-3 months before you see complete effects (keep in mind your body has to reabsorb the vessel and pigments from the blood).
Some tips to lower your “frustrating vein risk”
1) Relieve the pressure: try to lessen the pressure on your legs by keeping your weight down and avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. Take a walk every 30 minutes or do leg exercises to increase your leg circulation.
2) Get some support: try to manage the pressure and/or swelling in your legs with compression socks (I wear them every day!). You don’t need really tight ones, even 15-20 mmHg (on the labels) can help. You can find them at general stores, pharmacies, and medical supply stores. They are virtually everywhere.
3) Wear sunscreen: yes, that is my answer to most things…but it’s true! If you have lighter skin, sun exposure can lead to spider veins, especially the veins on your cheeks and nose.
4) Get yourself some Horse Chestnut: this is an over the counter supplement that can help with water retention in your legs and vein health in general. Please consult your primary care physician before you start taking this to check for any interactions with your current medications.
Unfortunately, like many things with our skin, varicose veins and spider veins also have a strong hereditary component, but diligence to support socks and an ideal body weight can put you in a better position to combat the issue.
Is there any good news? Yes! These typically aren’t an actual medical concern and are mainly cosmetic. You can leave them alone if they don’t bother you, but if you are unhappy about the way they look there are options for you. If you are having thoughts you might like to do something about your veins, please let us know if we can be of any assistance to you. We have a new, short pulse duration laser that is more comfortable and safer than other lasers on the market. As always, we offer free consultations for your skin care needs.
--Jean Gustafson, MD