Varicose Vein Treatment: What Is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy?

Varicose vein treatment is often done with lasers using methods such as endovenous laser treatment (ELT or EVLT), where a tiny laser on the end of an ultra thin cable is inserted directly into a varicose vein via a thin needle. However, with spider veins, varicose capillaries that are one millimeter or less in diameter, this is not the ideal treatment. Instead, the preferred method of treatment is usually intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy. In fact, intense pulsed light therapy was first pioneered specifically for the treatment of spider veins (dilated and damaged capillaries, i.e. varicose capillaries) and first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995.

What Is the Difference Between IPL and Laser Therapy?

Laser therapy, like endovenous laser treatment, uses a single wavelength of light energy (electromagnetic energy) to very precisely aim for a target vein. Duplex ultrasound is used to help the doctor guide the laser to the precise location. However, with intense pulsed light therapy, a broad spectrum of light ranging from 500 to 1200 nanometers in spectrum is intensely pulsed at the surface of the skin where the spider veins occur. Both work on the principle of finding chromophores, pigment cells, that respond to particular wavelengths of light.

In IPL therapy, a handheld device, sometimes called a flashgun, delivers the energy and is designed with little “protectors” to keep the device from accidentally making direct contact with the skin as it can get hot. Light filters are used to filter out harmful radiation (energy) like short wave and ultra short wave ultra violent light (UV). Filters are also used to help more precisely target the chromophores on the damaged capillaries WITHOUT damaging the overlying skin layers and other areas under the skin.

IPL Versus Transdermal Laser Treatment

Transdermal laser treatment is just another term used for intense pulsed therapy. In some cases, a distinction is made between medical grade IPL (transdermal laser treatment) and cosmetic IPL. Technically, however, they are the same procedure based on the same scientific concepts. “Transdermal” just means “through the skin.” So, in this case, light energy is being delivered to the spider veins “through the skin” but in a way that doesn’t permanently harm the skin. In some cases, temporary mild bruising or reddening of the skin occurs but this normally disappears within a few days after the procedure.

Does Insurance Cover IPL Therapy?

If spider veins do not pose any medical problems, or have an underlying vein disease, their removal may be deemed “cosmetic” by an insurance company. If this is the case, they may not pay for the procedure. However, spider veins are often associated with underlying vein problems. In these cases, a vein doctor may remove spider veins in association with other treatment that is covered by insurance. Furthermore, IPL therapy may also be used by varicose vein treatment centers to treat vascular lesions that commonly occur in association with varicose veins.

What Should You Expect With Intense Pulsed Light Therapy?

Compared to other varicose vein treatment, intense pulsed light therapy is the least invasive of all the procedures. There are no needles involved and the side effects, if any, are almost always extremely mild. On the day of the procedure, you are told not to apply any type of lotion or ointment to the area of treatment. During the procedure, the doctor will have you wear protective eyeglasses or goggles and the procedure will last about thirty minutes. The most discomfort you will feel is a “snapping” sensation that feels a bit like a small rubber band snapping you. IPL has been improved over the years. It now delivers light pulses in duration periods that best correspond to the actual diameter of the spider veins. This has made the the heating of the collagen fibers on the walls of the capillaries more consistent and even, which makes them collapse rather than burst.

Is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy the Best Treatment For You?

Varicose vein treatment centers, like Metro Vein Clinics, sometimes also use sclerotherapy (injecting chemicals into the vessels) for treating spider veins, particularly when the spider veins are larger. This is often the case, in fact, when spider veins are located on the legs or other areas of the body where underlying varicose veins or venous insufficiency may be directly associated with the spider veins. However, when spider veins occur on the face or chest, they are most often treated with intense pulsed light therapy. To determine which type of varicose vein treatment would work best on your spider veins, you have the excellent option of getting a free initial consultation with Metro Vein Clinics. Metro vein doctors are considered among the best to choose for spider vein and varicose vein treatment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *