No question is a silly question, especially when it comes to medical treatments. If you’ve thought of it, the chances are good that someone else has too. This article is meant to address the questions many patients feel too embarrassed to ask, but are completely valid and definitely worth asking. 

Are spider veins caused by spider bites? Why are they called that?

The name is a bit misleading, but these vessels have nothing to do with the creepy 8-legged crawlers. The “spider” in the name comes from the appearance rather than the cause: The wirey and thread-like vessels are visible at the surface of the skin, resembling the look of a spider’s web. Spider veins is much easier to say than the medical term for these vessels: telangiectasias.

I thought I had spider veins but they don’t really resemble a classic spider web shape. What are they?

Even though we have now discussed the origin of the name, just to confuse you a little more, not all vessels considered to be “spider veins” resemble a web. Spider veins can also present as thin and separated lines (resembling parallel pen marks) or tiny branchlike shapes (resembling a tree). It’s best to meet with me so that I can take a look and confirm whether or not your veins are suitable for sclerotherapy treatment.

Do I need to be hospitalized or take time off work?

The word sclerotherapy is long (and perhaps a bit intimidating), but good news – the recovery from this treatment is not! It is a minimally invasive procedure and there is little discomfort experienced afterward. Patients are able to drive, return to work, and resume most normal activities immediately after the procedure. 

Sclerotherapy gets rid of the unwanted vessels…but don’t I need those veins?

Yes, a healthy vein is an important part of your cardiovascular system, containing functional valves that allow them to return blood upwards to the heart. However, a malfunctioning valve leads to backflow of blood, causing it to pool and result in the non-functional spider veins seen at the skin’s surface. The sclerotherapy treatment targets these “dead-end” veins, clearing them away, and allowing the body to naturally regenerate other pathways of blood flow.

I’ve seen videos where spider veins appear to magically disappear immediately during the treatment. Does this mean I can expect immediate results?

Injecting any clear liquid into a vein will temporarily make it disappear from view, but there is more to the treatment than this. The injected substance is meant to chemically irritate the vessel and stimulate a natural inflammatory response, and this takes time. While the sclerotherapy treatment videos are incredibly satisfying to watch, don’t be misled by the timing. It may take weeks for the vessels to fully clear and show the complete benefit of treatment. Typically, most treated spider veins will be eliminated between two weeks to two months following the procedure.

How can I fit sclerotherapy into my vacation plans?

It is important that you begin your treatments well before your planned journey. Being immobile for long periods of time (such as during an air flight or road trip) should be avoided for at least 2 weeks following treatment. Sun exposure in the treatment area should be avoided for two weeks and until all bruising from the procedure has subsided to avoid risk of pigmentation. If you are planning a trip, chat with me about it. Not only would I love to hear the details of your planned adventure, but I can also work out the ideal timing for treatment to ensure your sclerotherapy treatment is safe with minimal risk.

Have more questions about sclerotherapy? I would love to answer them! Come meet with me in a consultation so that I can address any other concerns you may have.

Nicole Rice, NP