Medical Breakthroughs: Eliminating Spider Veins

BACKGROUND: Spider veins are small, enlarged, superficial blood vessels that appear red or blue. They commonly occur on the legs, but can occur on the face or elsewhere. These dilated blood vessels may be short, unconnected lines, each about the size of a large hair, or connected in a matted, "sunburst" pattern. They may also look like a spider web or a tree with branches. Sometimes, they occur in a small area and are not very noticeable, or they can cover a large area of skin and be quite unattractive.

Larger dilated blood vessels, called varicose veins, may be raised above the skin surface and may occur along with spider veins. Together, they affect about 80 million adults in the United States. Spider veins are not a health hazard but they can be considered disfiguring. The incidence of spider veins increases with age. There also seems to be a hereditary characteristic.

TREATING THE VEINS: Spider veins are often treated with a procedure called sclerotherapy. With this procedure, one of several solutions, called sclerosing solution, is injected with a very fine needle directly into the blood vessel. This procedure has been used for spider veins since the 1930s and before that for larger veins. The solution irritates the lining of the vessel, causing it to swell and stick together and the blood to thicken. Over a period of weeks, the vessel turns into scar tissue that is absorbed, eventually becoming barely noticeable or invisible. After several treatments, most patients can expect a 50 percent to 90 percent improvement. However, fading is gradual, usually over months. Disappearance of spider veins is usually achieved, but similar veins may appear in the same general area.

NEW LASER: A new type of laser, called the Dornier laser, effectively clears up spider veins on the face. It works by heating up hemoglobin, which is the part of the blood that contains oxygen.

"[Hemoglobin] absorbs the wavelength from the laser, heats up, and the blood vessel seals up and closes itself," said Leslie Baumann, M.D., from the University of Miami.

Dr. Baumann said it is a safe treatment because it selectively targets the blood and nothing else. The laser does not leave any bruises and the results are instant. Dr. Baumann also says the results are permanent. Once they have been treated, the vessels will not need to be treated again.

The cost of an initial treatment ranges from $400 to $800. Since the results are permanent, it may not be as expensive as treatments that need to be repeated.

For More Information, Contact:

University of Miami Cosmetic Center
Cedars Medical Center
1295 NW 14th St.
South Building, Suite K
Miami, FL 33125
(305) 324-7546

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