Both varicose and spider veins are visibly discolored veins usually found on the legs. While each type of vein has the same root cause of chronic venous insufficiency, they are treated very differently. Varicose veins and spider veins treatment both use lasers, but the type of laser depends on the type of vein.
Recent medical and technological advancements make treating veins far less invasive than before. This allows for a faster recovery time which is far more convenient for doctors and patients alike. To understand the difference in spider and varicose vein treatment, it is important to understand the difference between vein types.
As the heart pumps, blood carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Arteries take oxygen-rich blood out toward the body parts. Veins take oxygen-poor blood back to the heart and lungs to get refueled. As the blood reaches the legs, gravity begins to make the journey back a little harder. Leg muscle movement, combined with valves within the veins that keep blood from backwashing, force blood back up to the heart. If the valves in the veins become weak or fail, blood pools back in the leg, enlarging the vein and causing discoloration. This is called venous insufficiency.
Spider veins are smaller and less severe than varicose veins. They are often blue or red and close to the skin’s surface but not noticeably raised. The visible veins spider webbing out across the expanse of skin is more of a cosmetic issue than a medical one. Spider veins have been known to occasionally cause itching but rarely pain.
Varicose veins are significantly bigger than spider veins, and treatment is considered a medical procedure. The swollen, twisted veins protrude from the skin and often lead to pain, burning, and even spasms. This type of vein is usually purple or dark blue.
Spider veins are so close to the skin’s surface they can be treated with a simple laser from outside the skin. The laser targets small veins and damages them, causing the body to reabsorb them. Multiple sessions are required with 6-12 week periods in between. Doctors will determine if there is a larger feeder vein to be dealt with first to prevent further damage between treatments. Larger veins are treated with endovenous laser ablation, same as varicose veins.
Like with large feeder spider veins, varicose veins treatment is from within the vein. Endovenous laser ablation is a method using lasers to seal the vein from the inside. This method has largely replaced surgery for severe varicose veins and is noninvasive. A small catheter inserted within the vein emits laser energy that shrinks and seals the vein wall. Healthy veins surrounding the area restore normal blood flow. This treatment can be done in the doctor’s office and only needs to be performed once.
Sclerotherapy used to be the go-to method for treating spider veins and some less severe varicose veins. Occasionally it is still the better method for treating spider veins, as laser treatment for smaller veins isn’t always as effective. Sclerotherapy hardens the veins and keeps more blood from pooling until the body absorbs them. This type of treatment will deal with both the spider veins and their feeder vein. A good result requires 2-3 sessions of treatment.
Whether treatment is medical or cosmetic, the board-certified vascular surgeons at South Valley Vascular are pleased to provide high-quality care. We will take time to meet with you and create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs. If you have questions or would like to schedule a consultation, contact South Valley Vascular today.