Though generally harmless, hair-thin
blemishes, known as spider veins, can cause some to want to cover up even in
the heat. Treating spider veins is rarely a medical necessity (though some seek
treatment to relieve the aching the veins can cause), but for those who want
it, spider vein-free skin is just a zap away.
No one knows why some people develop spider veins and others
don't, but genetics, the hormone estrogen and possibly the hormone progesterone
are thought to play a role. Spider veins appear more frequently in women than
in men, and are particularly common in pregnant women and those taking oral
contraceptives or hormone-replacement therapy.
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Getting rid of spider veins is safe and easy. Sclerotherapy,
the gold-standard treatment for spider veins, involves injecting a saline
solution or detergent into the veins, causing them to clump together or clot
and become less apparent. "Anybody who has veins they don't like is a good
candidate (for sclerotherapy) because it's an incredibly safe, easy
procedure," says Dr. Lisa Donofrio, an assistant clinical professor of
dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine.
In some cases, several injections are required. The
procedure feels like a tiny needle stick, and Donofrio says even needlephobic
patients usually get through it with little difficulty. Donofrio particularly
recommends treatment for people with a family history of problem veins who are
showing signs relatively early - for example, those who have multiple patches
of spider veins by their early 20s.
There is a strong chance -- up to 90 percent -- of greatly
improved appearance after sclerotherapy, according to the American Academy of
Dermatology (AAD). Results last for two years on average, notes Donofrio. After
that, genetics or whatever other factors caused the veins to appear in the
first place tend to take over, and maintenance treatment is required to keep
the skin vein-free.
Charges for sclerotherapy typically range from $375 to $750
for both legs. Some doctors charge a set fee; others charge per vein
Laser treatment can also eliminate spider veins, but it
tends to be less effective and more expensive than sclerotherapy, with the same
level of discomfort, according to Dr. Matthew P. Olivo, a dermatologist based
in Westmont, New Jersey, and a fellow of the AAD. Lasers, however, are a good
option for treating delicate areas and for people who are allergic to the