Vein, Vein, Go Away

leg_vein_with_footAlthough I do a large amount of work on visible blood vessels over the winter months, I also get lots of inquiries about blatantly conspicuous veins popping up on the skin’s surface, especially on the legs after many months of being covered up.  Facial blood vessels are also more noticeable, especially against pale skin after the long winter.

I always warn people with cosmetically-concerning prominent blood vessels that there is no cure for these issues in that there is a strong genetic component to the tendency to develop these.  Treatment of these blood vessels is generally a maintenance situation and repeated treatments are needed over the years.

Leg veins can also be worsened when people have occupations that require a great deal of time standing and on their feet.  Such occupations include teachers, nurses, and sales personnel.

From an evolutionary viewpoint, humans are believed to have developed the ability to grow blood vessels quickly as a way to enhance and speed up wound healing.  Therefore, more of these cosmetically-noticeable blood vessels are definitely seen in areas of damage to the skin.

face-veinsThe facial veins are most frequently seen in areas of sun damage or scarring from acne or physical trauma.  The leg veins can also be seen more prominently in areas of routine trauma such as the outer thighs.

First, I will discuss the types of veins that I do not treat here at Maine Laser Skin Care.  My rule of thumb is that any vein that is bulging above the surface of the skin, such as varicose veins, unfortunately needs more aggressive therapy than I have available.

When I consult with you on your individual situation, I will frankly discuss other options, including referral to vascular specialists, if needed.  Invasive options include surgical removal of the varicosity itself (i.e. a swollen vein), sclerotherapy (i.e. injection directly into the vein of an irritating solution), and endovascular lasers or radio-frequency catheters (i.e. insertion of a catheter, or tube, directly into the vein with ability to fire a laser beam or RF energy).

The blood vessels I can treat with several types of external lasers here at Maine Laser Skin Care are commonly called spider veins on the legs and broken blood vessels or capillaries on the face.  A spider vein is medically defined as a vein 1mm or less in diameter.  However, all spider veins are not created equal.

spider_veinsSome spider veins are isolated and very superficial.  Others look more like a spider web of multiple intertwining blood vessels of various colors.  All spider veins are treatable by lasers in general, but in more complex situations, treating these vessels nearly always take multiple sessions.

The basic principle is that the laser beam will be targeted precisely by me on the blood vessel in question and the heat created by this will cause the blood vessel to collapse upon itself.  This vessel collapse triggers a series of chemical reactions within the body that signal that an injury has occurred at that site.

As a result of that injury signal, your body basically sends immune cells into the area to remove the damaged tissue very similar to what happens when you have a bruise.  Essentially, while the laser initiates this process, the final outcome and how long this outcome will take depends on your body and its ability to reabsorb the collapsed blood vessel.

Laser-Vein-Therapy-for-LegsOnce collapsed, and depending on the amount of blood within the blood vessel, some of the blood vessels will look thinner and smaller and some will look bruised.  Over the course of several weeks and months, the collapsed blood vessels gradually disappear.

My usual rule of thumb is that whenever blood vessel appearance is left after 4-6 weeks, the vessel needs repeat treatment.  Retreatment is almost always needed if the offending blood vessels have been around for an extended period of time, and especially if they have the spider web type appearance.

Whether on the face or the legs, the principle of laser treatment is the same.  Another area of blood vessel laser treatment that is increasing in popularity is the upper chest or decollete area.  Similar to the face, the upper chest blood vessels are commonly due to chronic sun exposure and its associated damage.

sunscreen_chestHow do you prevent future spider blood vessels?  On the face and chest, one word above all others: SUNSCREEN.

Also, for those who are prone to facial blood vessels in particular, topical vitamin K applied regularly will help stabilize blood vessels and prevent their migration closer to the surface of the skin.  On the legs, compression stockings are important in that they will prevent blood vessels from moving to the surface and becoming more visible.  Stockings are especially important to prevent and manage varicose veins.

If you have blood vessels on the face, the chest and the legs about which you are concerned, call for a free consultation at (207) 873-2158.  I will give you a frank opinion about your area of concern including what I can help you with and what I cannot.

My main goal as always is to help you feel better about yourself and how you present yourself to the world.  Aging gracefully does not mean having to put up with bodily damage that can be corrected with the latest medical and laser technology & procedures.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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