Laser treatment for veins works by directing very strong bursts of light on to unwanted veins on your face and body that cause the vein to gradually fade and eventually disappear. Lasers are very direct and accurate and only affect the area being treated, as such they are a very safe treatment. However, be warned that not all skin types and colours can always be safely treated with lasers. A qualified cosmetic doctor would be able to assess your suitability for this treatment. The treatment is usually very quick and can be likened to the sensation of being flicked with an elastic band. Alternatives to this treatment include sclerotherapy, micro-sclerotherapy and microwave treatment.
Spider veins are a common development from sun damage and from aging – or some people are genetically disposed to them.
- Certain medical conditions can promote development of thread veins
- Habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol can also exacerbate the development of fine veins
- Sun and changing temperatures can make spider veins appear more prominent
If you are unhappy with the appearance of spider veins or varicose veins on your legs, you may be a suitable candidate for the laser treatment of veins procedure. Before you undergo any sort of cosmetic procedure you should:
- Be of good physical and emotional health
- Have realistic expectations of what laser treatment of veins can achieve for you
- However, there are some people who are not suitable candidates for laser treatment of veins. This includes:
- People who are sensitive to light due to hereditary disease or medication
- Patients who have seizures triggered by light
- Very dark skinned individuals, who tend to develop hypopigmentation
- Patients who have tanned (including fake tan) within the previous four to six weeks – laser treatment for veins works best on pale skins
- Patients with large veins
- People with areas of broken skin in the area to be treated
- Patients with blood clotting disorders
- Patients with insulin-dependent diabetes
- Patients with a tendency towards keloid scarring
- Pregnant women
Ensure that before you undergo any laser treatment of veins procedure, you discuss your medical history, any medications you are taking and your expectations fully with your practitioner to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for laser treatment.
Complications arising from laser vein removal treatment are very rare if the treatment is performed by a skilled and experienced practitioner, however, as with any cosmetic treatment, there are risks and certain side effects and complications. Most of these are temporary, though some may turn out to be permanent.
The potential unwanted laser treatment for veins side effects include:
- Sunburn-like, burning sensation
- A ‘cat scratch’ reaction along the length of the vessel
Complications after laser vein removal are rare but may include:
- Thinning of the skin
- Hyperpigmentation (darkening)
- Hypopigmentation (whitening)
- Depression of the skin at the treatment site
These conditions should generally resolve themselves with no long-lasting side effects. Laser treatment of veins is normally safe when performed by a qualified, experienced physician. Ensure that you follow all the advice that your laser treatment of veins doctor gives you, to minimize the possibility of experiencing some of the more serious risks and complications.
There are several types of lasers that can be used to treat varicose veins and spider veins on the legs and face. Although your doctor will decide which type is best to treat your condition, some of the lasers used to treat veins include yellow light lasers, green light lasers, and other intense pulsed light systems.
Before your treatment proceeds you will be asked to put goggles on to protect our eyes from the powerful laser light.
No local anaesthetic is normally needed, though you may opt to have a topical anaesthetic cream applied prior to the treatment. A cooling gel may be applied to your skin. Some lasers however have a special chilled hand piece which acts to cool the surface of the skin while the beam from the laser penetrates the skin.
During the laser vein removal procedure, the laser, which emits light of a particular wavelength or colour, is directed into the skin to target visible veins (blood vessels). It passes harmlessly through the top layer of epidermis of the skin. The blood vessels absorb the light, which results in heating and destruction of the vein by a process known as thermo coagulation.
The dispersed blood cells, in the form of a bruise, are then carried away by the body’s collecting cells, leaving behind normal skin.
As the laser energy is absorbed by the skin, it heats it up, and creates a sharp pinprick, burning sensation. The discomfort level is moderate, and no anaesthesia is required.
There is little heating (and therefore minimal damage) to the surrounding skin. Following laser treatment, damaged vessels are absorbed into the body and little or no trace remains of the spider veins or varicose veins.
When the laser passes over the skin you should only feel a small pinch, or a sensation as if someone is snapping an elastic band against your skin. An anaesthetic cream can be provided to ease the discomfort. The skin is soothed by cooling both before and after the laser is applied to protect the superficial layers of the skin from heat damage and reduce the discomfort.
There may be some redness or swelling of the skin right after the laser treatment for veins, but this disappears within a few days. The skin also may be discoloured, but this will disappear within one to two weeks. Patients can return to normal activity immediately after treatment.
The laser treatment of veins can take anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour, and depending on the size and number of veins, one to five treatments may be needed to achieve the desired results. Treatments should take place approximately every four to six weeks.
Following your laser treatment of veins some redness, a slight burning sensation or bruising may occur. The skin will be cooled to ease these symptoms. Any swelling can be eased by the use of cold packs, and any pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication.
A burning sensation may be experienced for one or two hours after a laser treatment for veins session. Immediately following treatment, spider veins will be darker and more visible. Over two to six weeks, your spider veins usually fade. When larger veins are treated, a tan or brownish pigment may persist for a few weeks or months following treatment. You may notice a temporary ‘greyness’ in the veins, which will pass, and you might notice that some vessels have disappeared immediately.
Avoid alcohol for the first 24 hours after treatment. It’s also best to avoid hot showers and also spicy foods.
You may generally resume most normal activities immediately. However, it is recommended that you avoid strenuous exercise for the first 24 hours after treatment. The use of sunscreen is recommended on any treated areas exposed to the sun for at least two weeks.
After each treatment, you will see a 30-40% improvement in leg spider veins. An average of three treatments is normally needed at around three-month intervals to produce the desired results. Most people find that the majority of the treated veins have shown significant improvement within two to six weeks of treatment. However, your final results may not be apparent for several months.
The number of laser treatment for veins sessions and length of a session depends on the size, location and depth of the vein. Laser therapy is most effective for small and medium size spider veins. Combination therapy, where laser treatment is combined with sclerotherapy (where a solution is injected into the vein through a micro-needle and causes the vein to turn white, then gradually disappear) can be considered if you have small, medium and large spider veins.
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