Spider veins and varicose veins are very common, with about half of all adults in the United States suffering from some kind of vein problem. Fortunately, vein doctors now have several treatment options, such as sclerotherapy and laser vein therapy, to offer patients. If you have vein problems, you may be wondering which therapy is right for you.
The answer depends largely on the type of vein problem you want to treat. Treatments for spider veins, which are those tiny red or blue squiggly lines that can appear on your lower legs, ankles or even on your face, may not be effective for treating bulging, twisted varicose veins on the backs of your legs.
Sclerotherapy and laser vein therapy have the same goal – to irritate diseased veins enough to cause the blood vessels to close and seal shut. The circulatory system routes blood through other veins. The treated vein breaks apart after some time, and nearby tissue absorbs the remnants. The vein fades from view, leaving behind smooth skin.
Sclerotherapy and laser vein therapy close diseased veins in very different ways. Sclerotherapy involves the use of a chemical agent, known as a sclerosant, injected into the diseased vein. Laser vein therapy uses light energy to irritate the diseased vein to cause its closure.
Sclerotherapy may be the better choice if you have superficial spider veins because the procedure tends to be less expensive, faster, and more effective on those tiny veins lying close to the surface of your skin. You might prefer sclerotherapy if you have a low pain threshold, as the injections associated with sclerotherapy tend to be less painful than laser treatments. Sclerotherapy may be the better choice if you have darker skin, as some lasers produce light energy at wavelengths that can cause discoloration in those with darker or tanned skin.
Laser vein therapy may be the preferred option if you have spider veins on your face, have a fear of needles, or are allergic to the sclerosant chemical used in sclerotherapy. You might also prefer laser therapy if you have patches of visible tiny blood vessels, a condition known as telangiectatic matting. Laser vein therapy is also the treatment of choice for spider veins that are impossible to inject because they are too small.
Sclerotherapy and laser vein therapy are both good for the treatment of varicose veins. Vein surgeons typically inject a foam sclerosant to treat large varicose veins, as liquid sclerosants do not fill the space of the large vein and do not last as long. You may need more than one sclerosant treatment to alleviate very large varicose veins.
If you have varicose veins or spider veins, talk with your local vein doctor to determine whether sclerotherapy or laser vein therapy is right for you.