Many residents of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and South Florida feel dissatisfied with the appearance of their legs because of the fine red lines called “spider veins.” Advances in technology during the past few years have made it possible to treat these veins so that their appearance is greatly diminished. Adam J. Rubinstein, M.D., F.A.C.S., is a board-certified plastic surgeon who performs plastic surgery at his Aventura practice.
The number of women in the United States who have to manage spider veins is staggering. The Office of Women’s Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that more than half of all women in the country have some type of irregular vein problem. Though spider veins mostly affect women over 50, younger women and men can suffer from them as well. Spider veins are clusters of veins that appear on the legs. These vein clusters may be red, purple, or blue. They are most commonly found on ankles, calves, and thighs. They appear in these areas because legs bear the most weight from a body. This is why age, pregnancy, and obesity often lead to spider veins. However, hormonal changes or sun exposure can cause these vein clusters to appear as well. Dr. Rubinstein treats patients with spider veins using a simple, outpatient procedure called sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is carried out by injecting a liquid chemical into the veins. The spider veins then collapse and disappear. Sclerotherapy is popular because it requires no anesthesia and patients can resume their regular activities immediately after the procedure is finished. Likewise, sclerotherapy relieves any burning, aching, cramps, or swelling that are commonly associated with vein clusters. Sclerotherapy has seen a surge of use in the United States in recent years. This procedure has a long history abroad. European physicians have been using sclerotherapy for over 50 years. It is also common in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. If you suffer from spider veins, sclerotherapy is probably for you. The appearance of your legs can improve within minutes by using this mild, relatively painless therapy. The following information will help you understand more about sclerotherapy and its benefits. Dr. Rubinstein can also answer any questions you may have.
What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are small clusters of veins that are visible under the skin’s surface. Though they are connected to the venous system, they are not a vital part of your body’s circulatory system. Dr. Rubinstein may refer to spider veins as sunburst varicosities or telangiectasias. You may also hear them called cluster veins. Spider veins are caused by numerous issues. Bearing weight on legs is a common reason for capillaries to burst. This is true for those who are aged, obese, or pregnant, but can also be common for individuals who are on their feet most days. Jobs that require hours of standing or even sitting can lead to spider veins. Some medications may cause them as well. Heredity can also be a factor. Spider veins appear in one of three different patterns. The most common form looks like a spider with a dark center and legs on all sides. Others may look like branches of trees. These are most often seen on outer thighs in a sunburst pattern. Spider veins can also appear in straight lines, which is generally seen on the inner knee. Though spider veins and varicose veins are often grouped together, they are quite different. Varicose veins are large and usually painful. Spider veins are much smaller and may or may not cause pain. Sclerotherapy can be used to treat both; though varicose veins usually require surgery
The Best Candidates for Sclerotherapy
People of all ages get spider veins, and they all can benefit from sclerotherapy. However, those who are between the ages of 30 and 60 years old will realize the best results. Women who are pregnant have a high risk of developing spider veins. Similar to morning sickness, these often disappear on their own after the baby is born. Mothers who are breastfeeding are not advised to undergo sclerotherapy as it is not known how or if the procedure affects breast milk. Sclerotherapy is used more often for women than it is for men. This is largely because, thanks to the hair on their legs, spider veins on men go mostly unnoticed. Men who do wish to have their spider veins removed benefit just as well from sclerotherapy as women.
What to Expect from Sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy causes spider veins to shrink and eventually disappear, but it does often take multiple sessions for the appearance to fade completely. The number of sessions depends on the size and severity of the burst capillaries. Most patients need a minimum of two treatments to get the look they desire. Sclerotherapy is not a preventative treatment. Future spider veins can still occur even after multiple sclerotherapy treatments. Talk to Dr. Rubinstein to learn about the chances of recurring spider veins and any methods that can be employed to prevent future cluster veins.
Planning Your Sclerotherapy Treatment
Once you decide to explore sclerotherapy, you will make an initial appointment with Dr. Rubinstein for a consultation. He will examine your legs, looking at the spider veins and determining if there are more serious issues that need to be managed. If it is decided that you have a more serious issue, he will refer you to a specialist. Once those problems are treated, you can resume your surface vein removal. During the initial consultation, Dr. Rubinstein may draw a sketch of your legs to indicate the location of each spider vein. If necessary, he may use an ultrasound on your legs as well. He will also ask about physical problems you may have that are associated with spider veins. This can include itchy skin, tenderness, or pain in the leg region. Dr. Rubinstein will also need to go through a complete medical history. This will help to determine if you are a good candidate for sclerotherapy as well as what may be causing the spider veins to appear. People with certain conditions may not be able to benefit from the treatment. This includes patients with blood-borne diseases, heart conditions, diabetes, hepatitis, AIDS, and circulatory issues. You should disclose your entire health history during this consultation. Your treatment may not be as successful if you do not divulge everything that could be of importance. Likewise, the first consultation is the time to ask your questions. Because most spider vein treatments are not covered by insurance, this is also the time to find out about the total cost of the procedure(s).
Preparing for Sclerotherapy
Dr. Rubinstein wants all of his patients to be fully prepared before they begin treatments. He will give you a full treatment plan, speak with you about its benefits, and share how long it takes to recover. He will also give you instructions on how to prepare yourself for the treatment. It is vital for you to carefully follow the instructions given by Dr. Rubinstein. If you do not follow instructions precisely, your treatment could suffer or may have to be rescheduled for another time. You will be told not to use lotion, oil, or sunblock on the day of the treatment. You will need to wear shorts for the procedure. You should expect to see bruising and/or discoloration of your legs after each procedure. This can last for up to two weeks. Therefore, it is important to not schedule sclerotherapy shortly before a vacation or special occasion that requires swimsuits or short skirts.
The Sclerotherapy Procedure
Before the procedure begins, photographs will be taken of your legs. This provides a clear image where the spider veins are and also allows you to see progress once treatments are complete. After that point, you will lie on an examination table where your skin will be cleansed with an antiseptic. This is followed by the treatment, which consists of injections of the sclerosing solution into the veins. Dr. Rubinstein performs this treatment with the aid of magnification so he can see precisely into the area that needs to be treated. You will receive approximately one injection for every inch of the vein. Generally, there are no more than 40 injections in each treatment, though there could be as few as five. Few patients experience much pain during sclerotherapy sessions. You will probably feel the needle prick your skin, followed by a slight burning sensation. Because the sclerosing solution is mild, and the needles are quite small, the pain should be minimal at most. During the procedure, some patients enjoy reading books or listening to music. Others prefer to ask questions or converse with the doctor. You may do what is most comfortable for you; though it should be noted that you will be asked to change position on occasion. Sclerotherapy sessions can be as short as 15 minutes and are usually no longer than 45 minutes.
After Your Sclerotherapy Treatment
The site of each injection will be covered by a cotton ball, medical tape, and Ace Wrap if applicable. You will need to leave those in place for 24 hours after the procedure. You may experience slight discomfort after the treatment. This is to be expected. Some patients feel cramping in their legs for up to two days. The cramping is not serious and should go away on its own. You should not expect an overnight change in appearance in your spider veins. In fact, they may look much worse at the outset. You should not be alarmed by this, as that is merely a reaction to the sclerosing solution. Bruising and discoloration are normal. It can take a few weeks to fade. Brown pigmentation may stay in place for much longer, up to 12 months, but should fade on its own as well. Most patients require at least two treatments, but some will need many more to achieve the appearance they desire. Each treatment must be spaced 15 days apart.
Getting Back to Normal
You may resume your normal life immediately after the procedure. However, some patients prefer to take some time off from work to rest and relax. You do need to safeguard yourself against blood clots, which can be done by occasionally walking and stretching. You should also avoid too much exercise or lifting heavy objects until Dr. Rubinstein gives you a go ahead.
How Much Does Sclerotherapy Cost?
Most health insurance providers will not provide coverage for the costs of sclerotherapy. To make your procedure more affordable, Dr. Rubinstein proudly offers financing
options for all of his patients. His office also accepts cash, personal checks, and credit cards. If you are not satisfied with how you look, it might be appropriate for you to consider getting sclerotherapy. To find out more, contact Dr. Rubinstein at his Aventura practice if you live in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or South Florida.