When the first few spider veins cropped up on my legs, I panicked a bit. I assumed they were coming because my mom has quite a few on her legs, and genetics plays a big role in who gets them. So do things like being a woman (check), having hormones (check), and sitting all day at a desk job (sigh, check).
But actually seeing them manifest in tiny clusters on my thighs was traumatic, especially because I live in short shorts and dresses in the summer. So obviously when there was a chance for someone to get a spider vein treatment for work, I couldn't scream "MEEEEEE!" fast enough. This is what happened.
When I rolled up to MINTS Medical in Chicago, I figured Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad would tell me I was a perfect candidate for sclerotherapy, AKA spider vein injections. Instead, he seemed disappointed in my veins and said that they weren't that noticeable.
I think he wanted a dramatic reveal in the video we were shooting and instead, he got someone who thought her veins were 10,000 times more noticeable than they actually are. But isn't that always the case with insecurities?
Naturally, I wasn't reassured that they weren't that prominent. I had been fixating on them constantly for two years, and I wanted them gone. Plus, it's not like the doctor said, oh I can't see your spider veins. In fact, he called my veins "superficial," explaining that even though they were small, they were more noticeable than they should have been because they were so close to the surface. And he agreed to give me the injections.
After I cuffed my jean shorts a few times, the doctor wiped down my exposed thighs with a disinfectant and pulled out his ultrasound machine. He explained that during a spider vein removal, he would ideally use the ultrasound machine to guide the needle into the veins. It would also help him carefully fill the spider veins with a sclerosant, a saline solution designed to collapse and destroy them.
Unfortunately, Dr. Ahmad had a hard time seeing my veins on the machine, so he had to perform a visual sclerotherapy. That meant that he would just eyeball my legs and inject the veins he saw. He assured me it was fine for my smaller, superficial spider veins, and said that I actually could get a laser spider vein treatment.
Dr. Ahmad explained that treatment with a laser had fewer side effects than treatment with a sclerosant (which can cause an allergic reaction and itching), but he added that the laser would probably hurt a bit more and would likely require a few more treatments. So injections sounded better to me.
When it is time for the doctor to slide the needle into my leg veins, I make sure to look away. I'm trying not to repeat my third-grade TB finger-prick screening, where I took one look at the needle pricking my finger and fainted. I know I'm an adult now, but I figure it's best not to watch this.
Truly, the needle feels uncomfortable but not very painful. There are a few injections that hurt worse than others because the spider veins are near nerve endings. Oddly, the few clusters of spider veins on the back of my left thigh hurt the most. But overall, it mostly just felt like getting a shot or an IV put in your arm.
And the whole thing takes about 10–15 minutes.
Dr. Ahmad explains to me that I'll need to wear some sort of compression garment every day for two weeks to help keep the veins collapsed and promote faster and better healing. But he says I can forgo the intense medical-compression garments and just throw on some tight bike shorts because of how small my veins were.
I leave the appointment and hop on the train to go home. My legs are covered in little flesh-colored welts and look super sexy. I stop at CVS to pick up some capri shapewear that I can wear until I get some bike shorts.
Part of the problem is that I got my injections in July, the hottest month of the year in Chicago. So my thighs and crotch were sweaty for two weeks straight, with my only relief coming when I showered and at night, when I was allowed to take them off. I also may have taken them off to sit in a pool, but ya girl's got to live her life.
Part of me felt really lucky that I wasn't instructed to wear the compression garment 24/7, something that some poor sclerotherapy patients have to do. Yes, even in the shower. But wearing it during the hot summer days was still unpleasant.
So if I were to do it again, I would wait until the winter. But would I do it again?
I'm excited to report that two months after the treatment, my spider veins have significantly lightened, to the point where I don't feel self-conscious about them. They're not completely gone, but to be fair, I only had one treatment, and most people need at least two.
My one treatment was comped, but I would definitely pay money for this in the future, even full price—not that I would have to with one of our spider vein deals.
And I will most likely have to do it again at some point because even though I'm in a good place with these veins, there's a high chance that I'll develop more in another area. However, with these results, I'm not dreading that future at all.