It’s nearly impossible to get through life without unsightly veins, blood vessels and other benign vascular lesions. They are a problem for millions of men and women worldwide. In some cases, the issues are primarily cosmetic in nature, and for others, unwanted leg veins sometimes pose a health risk that demands attention.
It’s estimated that over 60% of the population suffers from varicose veins and spider veins. Varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels that have widened due to a weakness in the vein wall or a problem with the valves that control the flow of blood. Spider veins are the small, superficial purple or red veins stretching like a web under the skin. Overexposure to the sun is believed to contribute to the dilation of spider veins, especially those found on the face.
Unsightly veins become more common with age. Over 40% of middle-aged women (age 40 to 50) report problems with unsightly leg veins. That percentage increases to 72% in women age 60 to 70.
Until recently, treatment for varicose and spider veins was a long and painful process that involved needles and other invasive procedures, sometimes even surgery. New light-based therapies are allowing physicians to successfully treat many types of unsightly veins, simply and non-invasively.
What are unsightly veins?
Doctors often refer to unsightly veins as benign vascular lesions. These lesions appear on the surface of the skin as splotches, dots, bulges and spider shapes. They can show up in a variety of colors ranging from red to purple to brown. Sometimes they are caused by weakness in the walls or valves of veins, causing blood to stagnate rather than be circulated. Some vascular lesions are so tiny that they are not visible under normal conditions, and others are quite prominent.
Varicose leg veins are the most common type of vascular lesion. They are believed to be hereditary, but are also associated with injuries, infections, hormonal factors and lifestyles. Obesity, pregnancy, old age and prolonged standing may also contribute to the condition.
Varicose veins are commonly found along the inside of the leg, at the back of the calf and at the ankles. The veins are blue and appear swollen, kinked, twisted or “ropey” in appearance. In fact, the word “varicose” comes from the Greek term for “grapelike.” Some patients experience no symptoms from varicose veins. Others may be aware of pressure or a dull ache in their legs. Varicose veins can also cause the feet and ankles to swell. Symptoms are usually worse at the end of the day.
Large varicose veins can be an indication of a serious vascular disorder. Slow blood flow can cause blood clots to form inside the affected vein. The slowing of blood flow through the vein can also lead to open sores or ulcers on the skin. More than one million Americans suffer from leg ulcers and nearly 100,000 are disabled by the condition. In this country, six million workdays are lost each year due to complications of varicose veins.
Broken Veins and Capillaries
The face has an extensive network of veins and small blood vessels called capillaries. Aging, trauma, sun exposure and other factors can cause these vessels to become more prominant or to break. The breaks, also called telangiectasias, commonly appear as spider veins or as red streaks or blotches. Sometimes broken capillaries can cause a diffused redness in the skin, called erythema, a source of social embarrassment for many people. Rosacea is a common skin condition that is characterized by diffused erythema.
A number of therapeutic options exist for varicose veins and other benign vascular lesions. However, most of these conditions have been stubbornly resistant to the traditional arsenal of treatments used to combat them.
Sclerotherapy: Until recently, this was the primary treatment for varicose leg veins. The procedure involves using a syringe and needle to inject an irritating solution into the vein, which causes it to scar and collapse. Sclerotherapy has been somewhat effective for smaller veins, but the treatment can be painful and often requires multiple injections and repeat treatments. Side effects include bruising, burning, swelling and inflammation; patients need to wear bandages or compression stockings for several days after treatment.
Surgery: Larger varicose veins that do not respond to sclerotherapy are sometimes surgically removed in a process called vein stripping and ligation. This is particularly advised for patients who suffer from blood clots or skin ulcers. During this procedure abnormal veins are tied off and pulled out of the body through a series of small cuts in the skin.
Traditional Lasers: Several laser systems have been used to treat varicose veins, but results have been inconsistent, due to the inability to treat larger veins or complex networks of different size vessels located at varying depths of the skin.
New Treatment Options: Lasers and IPL™
Breakthrough technology provides non-invasive, gentle treatments for varicose and spider veins as well as facial blood vessels. Multi-application IPL™ System technology includes a pulsed laser light combined with a broad band of Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) to offer the most effective and long-lasting results for the widest range of benign vascular lesions. With proprietary Multiple Synchronized PulsingTM capabilities, IPL systems selectively heat and destroy different sized blood vessels at depths below the skin’s surface with excellent results. Physicians are now able to treat complex and interwoven networks of large vessels and webs of small capillaries with pinpoint accuracy, eliminating the unwanted veins and sparing the adjacent healthy ones. By delivering the laser light in highly focused pulses, the IPL computer-controlled system allows the skin and healthy surrounding tissues to cool down, avoiding thermal damage. Pain during treatment and side effects afterward are greatly reduced. Most people can immediately return to their normal routines.
Intense Pulsed Light is the treatment of choice for surface veins and spider veins, while greatly improving the overall appearance of the skin. In addition to treating blood vessels, IPL provides dramatic results for a variety of benign conditions that are common to the aging face, including age spots, sun-induced freckles, symptoms of rosacea, birthmarks, unsightly veins, acne scarring and other blemishes. Treatments are well tolerated and patients quickly return to their normal activities.
Abram Berens, M.D.
Dermatologic and Hair Transplant Surgery
Office (954) 916-1100, Fax (954) 916-1104
969 North Nob Hill Road Plantation, Florida 33324-1078, United States
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