If you sometimes avoid showing your legs because you have spider veins — those small clusters of red, blue or purple veins that appear on the thighs, calves and ankles — you are not alone. It’s estimated that at least half of all women are bothered by this common cosmetic problem.

A number of factors may contribute to the development of spider veins in the legs, including:

  • Heredity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal shifts
  • Weight gain
  • Occupations or activities that require prolonged sitting or standing

In some women, spider veins become noticeable in their early 20s. For others, the veins may not become obvious until they reach their 40s. Men get spider veins, too. However, usually they are concealed by hair growth on the leg.

If you would like to eliminate your spider veins and improve your appearance, your plastic surgeon can help. Today there are very effective, safe and relatively painless methods available for eradicating spider veins.

Sclerotherapy requires no anesthesia and is usually performed in an outpatient setting. Two or more sessions, each lasting less than an hour, are usually required to obtain optimal results.

The treatment

A common method of treating spider veins in the legs and ankles is with sclerotherapy. In this treatment, sclerosing solution is injected into each affected vein, causing the vein to collapse and fade from view.

Although everyone is different, you can generally expect to receive one injection for every inch of spider vein that is treated. Bright light and magnification may be used to ensure maximum precision while the skin is held taut to inject sclerosing solution. A cotton ball and compression tape is often applied to each injection site as it is finished.

Leg veins may also be treated with a laser. In this method, an intense beam of light is directed at the spider vein, which obliterates it through the skin.

Typically, two or more sessions are needed to obtain the desired results. Sometimes, laser therapy is used in combination with sclerotherapy.

The decision to have spider vein treatment is extremely personal and you’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable.

Your vascular surgeon and/or staff will explain in detail the risks associated with treatment. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks and potential complications.