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Thread Vein Removal (Laser/IPL)

Cosmetic Laser treatments to eradicate unsightly veins


Procedure Summary

Surgery Type:


Procedure Duration:

15 minutes

Expected Results:

Fading of thread veins using Laser or IPL

Recovery Duration:

Up to 8 weeks

First used:


Results Duration:



Anaesthetic Cream

Average UK Cost:

£100 - £400 per session

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Telangiectasias, commonly referred to as spider or thread veins on the face or body, can be removed using a number of cosmetic procedures. Methods for removing disfiguring veins made significant advances in the 1920s when a treatment for varicose veins (sclerotherapy) was modified to tackle the smaller thread veins. Nowadays, two of the most popular thread vein removal techniques used are laser light and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light).

Is thread vein removal right for you?

Thread veins affect around 20% of 20 year old women and 50% of 50 year olds. They vary in type, size and colour, ranging from fine red ones to larger purple or deeper blue veins. Although harmless, they can be the cause of self-consciousness and can inhibit people wearing shorts, skirts and swimming costumes.

Not to be confused with varicose veins, thread veins are usually very near the skin’s surface, red, blue or purple in colour and under 2mm wide. Varicose veins are deeper, usually a blue/green colour, over 2mm wide and should be considered a medical rather than a cosmetic matter.

As one woman in her 20s commented, “I developed these clusters of thin, red veins on both cheeks. They didn’t look too bad, but they made me look like I’d had too much to drink! I didn’t know what they were or where they had come from, but after a consultation with a cosmetic surgeon I felt fully informed and went ahead with IPL treatment. The brief, straightforward treatment made a dramatic improvement.”

Please note that IPL treatment is not suitable for people with dark skins and cannot even be undertaken by fair skinned people if they have a suntan. Your suitability for treatment will be discussed during your initial consultation with the practitioner. Your specialist will also establish if there is any connection between your thread veins and any underlying varicose veins. If so, the varicose veins will need treating before the thread veins.

Although thread vein removal is permanent, some people are inclined (for genetic reasons, amongst others) to develop them and may well continue to develop them after successful treatment.

Undergoing thread vein removal treatment

Laser Treatment

A laser is a beam of high energy light produced in a single wavelength, or colour. During thread vein laser treatment the beam is directed at the problem area so that its energy can be absorbed by the blood in the veins. This causes the blood to heat up which degrades the lining of the blood vessels causing them to stick together and seal themselves off. The vein then slowly fades away.

The treatment only takes a few minutes and requires nothing more than a topical local anaesthetic cream to be applied 20 minutes or so before the procedure. Thread Vein Removal Laser IPLThe discomfort experienced is minimal, though the larger the vein the more discomfort there will be.

The treated area should be kept well moisturised and away from sunlight for at least 2 weeks. Side effects and post-treatment recovery time are minimal. Occasionally small areas of blistering or crusting can occur, though this usually disappears within a day or so. The treated veins take up to 8 weeks to fade naturally and allow the final results to be observed, at which point further treatments can be undertaken if necessary. Typically, an area will be fully repaired after 2 or 3 treatments.

“My legs were in good physical shape, but spoiled by the appearance of ageing, thread veins”, said one patient. “Laser treatment gave my legs a new lease of life, and it was no more hassle than a couple of trips to the dentist.”

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Treatment

IPL machines can deliver hundreds of wavelengths, or colours, in each burst of light. Filters are used to modify the light so that they can be used in a similar way to lasers. IPL provides flexibility in wavelength, pulse duration and energy levels according to the size and depth of the blood vessels and skin colour. This versatility makes IPL particularly suitable for treating thread veins on the face.

As mentioned earlier, IPL is not suitable for people with dark skins or suntans, therefore strong sun exposure should be avoided for two weeks prior and after treatment sessions.

The light is ‘fired’ at the skin through cold coupling gel which allows uniform delivery to the area being treated. The process takes around 15 minutes, depending on the amount of skin being treated, and can involve an anaesthetic cream if necessary. Side effects are minimal and make-up can be applied immediately after treatment. The area will be fully repaired after 3 or 4 treatments at 3 weekly intervals.

Who should carry out thread vein removal?

Generally, trained doctors, surgeons and nurses are qualified to perform this procedure, though, results can vary with the skill of the practitioner and the technology being used. Some limited-use light machines have been developed specifically for use by trained beauticians. All clinics offering laser treatments should be registered with the Healthcare Commission (in the UK) to ensure that national minimum standards are followed.

Depending on your particular problem, laser and IPL treatment may be available to you on the NHS. Costs for private treatment can range from £100-£400 per session depending on the type and extent of your problem. If thread vein removal is something that you are considering, you can discuss all of the issues mentioned here in greater depth during a consultation with a suitable practitioner.

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