Harvard Men's Health Watch

The best ways to treat spider veins

Ask the doctor

Q: I have developed numerous small, thin veins over my legs. I would like to get rid of them. What is the most effective treatment?

A: Dilated superficial veins, known as reticular or "spider" veins, are a common problem as men get older. The preferred treatment is sclerotherapy, but laser therapy is gaining popularity. Sclerotherapy involves injecting fluid into the veins with a small needle. This liquid causes irritation and inflammation of the vein, leading to its collapse. Laser therapy uses intense pulsed light to cause heat-related damage to the veins. Both treatments involve some discomfort. Wearing compression stockings afterwards appears to help improve outcome.

Each treatment has its pros and cons. Sclerotherapy is better for larger veins, but involves needles and injections. Laser therapy can be as effective for smaller veins, but it may result in loss of skin pigment, especially in darker-skinned individuals. However, in studies comparing the treatments, sclerotherapy is more likely to be successful. Keep in mind that treatment of spider veins is considered cosmetic, so medical insurance usually does not cover the procedure.

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