Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

What is intense pulse light therapy?

Intense pulsed light therapy, also referred to as IPL, is a non-invasive treatment for spider veins both on and below the surface of the skin. As the name suggests, the procedure uses intense light pulses to damage veins, causing them to seal shut and eventually fade from view. The procedure does not require any needles or incisions, making this a virtually painless treatment for spider veins that does not require any downtime afterward.

IPL can be used to address smaller spider veins as well as the network of veins known as telangliectasia. The procedure may also be recommended for the treatment of minor skin imperfections such as sun spots, freckles and age spots. IPL may also be used to treat fine lines and remove unwanted hair. Different IPL devices are available to address various skin concerns, so treatment can be customized to the specific needs of the patient.

When is it done?

IPL may be recommended for spider veins that have not responded to other types of treatment, such as laser ablation or sclerotherapy. It is particularly helpful with larger networks of veins that would be difficult to treat with these procedures. Patients with fair skin tend to see the best results with IPL, although patients with slightly darker skin tones may also get positive results.

IPL delivers heat directly to the affected veins, without damaging skin or tissue surrounding the vessel. The delivery is completed through a handheld device that is run across the skin’s surface. This device may work on veins that are too far below the skin’s surface to address with laser treatments.

How does the procedure work?

IPL is performed in the physician’s office as an outpatient procedure. The veins to be treated with IPL therapy are marked and the area is cleansed. No type of anesthetic is required prior to treatment, but the patient is required to wear protective eyewear to prevent damage to the eyes from the light pulses. The handheld device is run across the surface of the skin, and light pulses are delivered directly into the vein.

The entire procedure may take just a few minutes to complete, depending on the number of veins to be addressed. If the patient experiences any discomfort from the heat of the device, a cooling system or topical anesthetic may be recommended to increase patient comfort. Today’s IPL devices typically come equipped with cooling systems to keep skin at a comfortable temperature during treatment.

What is the recovery like?

Patients are allowed to return to regular activities immediately after IPL treatment. Sun exposure is discouraged for a number of days, to minimize redness to the skin. The treatment area may look slightly red and swollen for a few days after the procedure, but these side effects typically disappear on their own without additional treatment. Some patients may be advised to wear compression stockings after the procedure for a few days to promote healing and healthy blood flow in the area.

When will the results appear?

The results of IPL begin to appear right after treatment and continue to improve over the next few days to weeks. It does take some time for veins to fully collapse and be reabsorbed by the body, so full results cannot be seen right away. If symptoms accompanied the spider veins, they are usually relieved immediately after treatment.

How many treatment sessions are needed?

Most patients will require anywhere from one to five IPL treatment sessions, spaced approximately three to four weeks apart. Some patients may have other vein treatments in combination with IPL in order to obtain the best possible results.

Will veins reappear after treatment?

The treated veins disappear and are reabsorbed by the body, so they cannot reappear after treatment. However, other veins may appear in the same area, requiring additional treatment sessions to maintain positive results.

What is the cost of Intense Pulsed Light Therapy?

A single session of IPL therapy may cost anywhere from $200 to $400. Cost varies based on the number of veins to be addressed and the location of the physician. Offices on either coast typically charge more for IPL treatments than physicians located in the middle of the country. Since IPL is primarily considered a cosmetic treatment, insurance companies do not typically cover the cost of the procedure. Some physicians do offer financing plans to make IPL therapy more affordable for their patients.