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the back of a patient's leg with extensive spider veinsAround Portland, there’s no shortage of water, whether it’s the Willamette River to the south, the Columbia to the north, or the coast to the west. That means swimsuits and shorts are part of our summer wardrobe. So, when you donned your favorite suit or shorts this summer, were you distressed to see those little clusters of purple or blue lines on your legs? Ugh. Spider veins.

Estimated to affect up to half of all women, the condition is characterized by areas of thin red, blue and purple veins. Once considered an inevitable part of the aging process, today’s patients are choosing to do something about it. Dr. Bernard Gasch of Center for Dermatology, reports on this growing trend, explaining one procedure that continues to be making all the difference.

Why Do I Have Spider Veins?

Arteries take oxygenated blood from the heart and lungs and deliver it to the body. The veins are the roadways back home to the heart. And the legs veins don’t have an easy job — they’re fighting gravity the whole way. When the strength of the support tissues and even of the veins themselves diminish it can cause the blood to back up and pool in spots. This shows itself in spider and varicose veins. Because spider veins are just below the surface of the skin, they are very visible.

Speaking on the causes behind these unsightly blood vessels, Dr. Gasch offered a few suggestions. “There are several factors that can account for the development of spider veins,” explains Dr. Gasch. “However, we most commonly see the condition in patients who are on their feet for a greater part of the day, following pregnancy and in patients with a genetic predisposition.”

Getting Rid of Spider Veins

“While spider veins don’t usually present a medical concern, many patients find them unappealing and embarrassing,” explains Dr. Gasch. “Thankfully, cosmetic dermatology offers a simple and effective solution – sclerotherapy.”

A proven treatment since the 1930s, sclerotherapy remains the primary effective treatment for spider veins.

The Sclerotherapy Procedure

During sclerotherapy, a sclerosing solution is injected into the affected veins, causing them to gradually disappear. After the veins are injected and collapse, the body goes about absorbing them over the next couple of months, but they immediately become nearly invisible after they collapse. Any blood that ran through the vein is routed to an adjacent vein. Two to four sclerotherapy sessions are typically required to fully eliminate the appearance of spider veins.

Although the actual procedure of sclerotherapy has remained similar for decades, the solutions used in sclerotherapy have greatly evolved over time, resulting in much less discomfort than previously. Three years ago, the FDA approved Polidocanol, also known as Asclera, which has resulted in virtually painless sclerotherapy with minimal side effects.

The sclerotherapy procedure is most effective for small more superficial red or blue veins, not for larger bulging varicose veins. The treatment does not require any anesthesia and patients can return to their normal activities within a few days. Our providers recommend that their patients wear compression stockings for the first few days following the procedure, in order to improve the results.

At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, our providers can easily treat spider veins with great success. If you’re dealing with spider veins, we encourage you to consult with our board-certified dermatologists to learn more about sclerotherapy.