Broken capillaries, or spider veins, usually appear on the face and lower extremities. They usually develop due to ageing, hormones, genetics or overexposure to the sun. Some people also develop broken capillaries because of weight gain or pregnancy. Though broken capillaries can be unsightly, there are treatments available to minimise or erase the appearance of spider veins.
Laser removal works by directing a concentrated laser at the skin around the broken capillaries. The laser light is absorbed and the vein walls collapse, causing the vein to be reabsorbed by the body within three to four weeks, at which time it disappears from view. Laser vein removal usually requires a patient to undergo several sessions, though smaller areas may require only a single session. Multiple treatments are usually spaced out over three to six months. According to the Cornell University Department of Dermatology, most patients do not require a local anesthetic during the procedure.
Sclerotherapy treatments for broken capillaries are usually very effective. They may clear broken capillaries or spider veins in a single treatment session, depending on the number and size of the veins. An injection into the broken capillaries causes the lining of the veins to scar and collapse. The body then absorbs the broken down veins, causing them to disappear from sight in four to eight weeks.
Recovery from laser vein removal is quick with few side effects. According to the Southwestern Medical Center, some patients may develop blisters, bruising or redness, but these side effects usually stop after a few weeks to a couple months. Patients should avoid heavy sun exposure following treatment and wear sunscreen when exposure cannot be avoided.
Sclerotherapy patients wear a compression stocking for 48 hours following the procedure and a sheer stocking for the following seven days. Sclerotherapy does not limit daily activities, but patients are asked to refrain from high-impact exercise and weightlifting for 48 hours following the procedure. Sclerotherapy does have side effects in some patients. The most common are itching and redness at the site of the injection. According to the Stony Brook University Medical Center's Department of Surgery, brownish discolouration of the skin occurs in about 15 per cent of patients and goes away on its own within four months. Ten per cent of patients experience the formation of small, dense veins that look like a red blemish, and these can be treated with laser procedures.
Treatments for broken capillaries are usually considered cosmetic, and they are often not covered by medical insurance. According to Dr. Jean Loftus, a nationally recognised plastic surgeon who practices in Ohio and Kentucky, laser vein removal treatments cost between £195 and £292 per session as of 2009, while sclerotherapy generally costs between £65 and £260 per session.
Laser vein removal treatments usually last a long time, but they may not be completely permanent. Factors that contribute to the formation of broken capillaries, such as ageing, sun exposure and genetics remain after treatment. The Cornell University Department of Dermatology recommends patients undergo one laser treatment each year to clear up any re-emerging broken capillaries.