(Synonyms: skin blemishes, spider vein removal, scar revision, tattoo removal)

Aging, heredity, hormones, sun exposure, smoking, skin care regimens and other life choices take a toll on the skin. Fortunately, there options are available to improve the skin's appearance.

Skin blemishes

Many treatments are used for skin problems, such as surface irregularities, scars, blemishes, discolorations such as freckles and birthmarks, acne, wrinkles and spider veins. Laser therapy can vaporize blemishes, seal blood vessels or penetrate deeper into skin tissue. Chemical peels and dermabrasion smooth the skins surface. Sclerotherapy (see below) closes off unsightly blood vessels.

Spider veins

Small superficial veins (telangiectasias or spider veins) are a common concern in women, especially after pregnancy. They also frequently occur in people who have varicose veins. Those who have spider veins and varicose veins can reduce the risk of rapid recurrence of spider veins by having the varicose veins treated first.

Medium and large spider veins are best treated by sclerotherapy — a chemical solution is injected into the vein to cause it to inflame and ultimately disappear. Laser therapy is most effective on small and medium-sized veins.

What to expect

Sclerotherapy can be performed in the physician's office and does not require hospitalization. Depending upon the area being treated, the procedure may take as long as 30 minutes. No sedation or anesthesia is necessary. Injection sites are covered with gauze and tape, and the legs are usually wrapped with an elastic wrap. The vessels gradually disappear over the next month. Several schlerotherapy sessions are usually needed to achieve the desired improvement. Sessions are typically scheduled six weeks apart.

Patients may experience a temporary burning sensation as the solution enters the vessel. This discomfort usually diminishes within minutes. Veins may appear darker and more visible after treatment. Over the next month, the darkness fades.

The skin should be protected from sun exposure for one year following either treatment.

Risks

Risks associated with sclerotherapy include, but are not limited to:

  • Swelling, if the injections are around your ankle
  • A small scab may develop at the injection site due to solution escaping from the vessels
  • In rare cases, mattelike telangiectases (small sunburst-like vessels) develop at the injection site. The remedy is reinjection or laser treatment.
  • Development of brownish colored skin in the treated areas; usually disappears within two to six months

Scar revisions

Scar formation is the body's way of healing following surgery or injury. Because everyone heals differently, there is no way to predict how a scar will look after healing. With time, many scars that are firm may soften and fade. Wide, raised scars are known as hypertrophic scars. Keloid scars grow out of the incision line. Treatment options range from allowing more time for a scar to heal, applying pressure to the scar, massage, injection or excision.

To minimize the visibility of any scar, protect it and the skin from the sun by using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.

Tattoo removal

Tattoos are created by ink drops placed under the skin by a needle. Q-switched Yag laser is most often used to remove tattoos and other pigmented or discolored skin. The laser light passes through the skin and is absorbed by the ink, causing it to break into smaller pieces. The body's natural filtering system absorbs the small pieces of ink. Bright green, yellow and red inks are most difficult to remove.

What to expect

There may be a stinging sensation during the laser treatment. This is sometimes described as "hot specks of bacon grease hitting the skin." Most patients do not require anesthesia, although local anesthesia may be used. After a session, the skin over the treated area may appear to have a light abrasion. Ointment and a light dressing are applied to the affected area after treatment.

Each session lasts five to 15 minutes, depending on the size and color of the tattoo. Multiple treatments are usually needed over a period of months.

Usually, fading of the tattoo is the best result that can be accomplished. Sometimes the tattoo will disappear.

Maintaining healthy skin

  • Use sunscreen of SPF 15 every day; avoid sun tanning
  • Drink eight glasses of water a day
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Limit your caffeine consumption
  • Maintain a skin care regimen
  • Wear sunglasses with UVA/ABB protection
  • Do not go to tanning salons

Skin problems are treated by specialists in Dermatology and Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

May. 14, 2014