If you suffer from spider veins, you may be relieved to discover that help is available. Although often considered a cosmetic issue, spider veins can cause a range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms. Beyond that, the presence of web-like veins may indicate poor vein health. This can place you at risk for several dangerous health conditions.
Below, we include helpful information about spider veins, their causes, and your treatment options.
What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are small, visible veins located near the skin’s surface. They tend to grow in web-like patterns, can be colorful in appearance (red, purple, or blue), and are less than one millimeter in diameter. Unlike varicose veins, spider veins are not usually raised or bulging.
While spider veins are often painless, potential symptoms can include:
- Swelling in the affected area
- Leg restlessness, especially at night
- A sensation of tingling, numbness, burning, or itching
- Tenderness or redness surrounding impacted veins
Most commonly, spider veins show up on the legs. However, they can also impact the face, hands, or other areas of the body.
What Causes Spider Veins?
Spider veins are caused by underlying vein disease or venous insufficiency. Vein disease is a progressive condition that can also lead to the development of varicose veins, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and other venous issues. Each year, approximately 150,000 new patients are diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency.
Within the circulatory system, your arteries are responsible for transporting oxygenated blood from the heart to your organs, peripheries, and other areas of the body. In turn, your veins are then responsible for sending blood back to the heart for reoxygenation.
Vein disease develops when tiny, one-way valves in the veins begin to malfunction. This can lead to blood pooling or flowing backward instead of continuing to the heart. When blood pools in the legs, ankles, and feet, a range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms can occur. Common symptoms include leg swelling, cramping, itching, and heaviness. When left untreated, symptoms become worse over time.
Vein disease can place you at increased risk for several dangerous health issues, including blood clots and venous ulcers (open, non-healing wounds). One type of blood clot, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is considered a life-threatening medical emergency. Venous ulcers are also a serious health condition since they can lead to infection.
Many risk factors can contribute to the development of vein disease, including genetics, age, pregnancy, and lifestyle. Unfortunately, following a healthy lifestyle isn’t always enough to avoid vein problems. If you suffer from spider veins or varicose veins, we want you to know that you have treatment options.
How to Treat Spider Veins
If you are avoiding the doctor because you fear surgery, you may be relieved to learn that spider veins can be treated with minimally invasive techniques in an office-based setting.
Most often, a non-surgical procedure called Visual Sclerotherapy is used. This outpatient procedure takes between 15 and 30 minutes and does not involve stitches, scarring, or a lengthy recovery. You can return to most normal daily activities immediately following treatment.
Visual Sclerotherapy involves injecting small amounts of a sclerosant solution at the site of your malfunctioning vein(s). The solution irritates the involved vessels, causing them to close and seal off. Blood flow is then rerouted to healthy, surrounding veins.
Over time, your treated veins will fade away and become reabsorbed by the body. Most patients see treatment results within four to six weeks.
Although the effects of Visual Sclerotherapy are usually permanent, some veins may require multiple treatments to obtain your desired outcome. When this is the case, treatment sessions are scheduled several weeks apart.
After treatment, you may be asked to wear compression stockings for some time.
Treatment side effects are usually minor and may include:
- Slight bruising
- Red, raised areas or small sores in the treated area
- Dark spots or lines in your skin
- Tiny red blood vessels
If you experience these temporary issues after your procedure, they should disappear within a few days or weeks. If you notice lingering bruising or other symptoms beyond two weeks, contact your doctor for evaluation.
Other vein treatments, such as laser therapy may also be available to treat spider veins. Laser therapy uses light-based energy to heat and seals off malfunctioning vessels. It is usually reserved for facial spider veins.
We recommend consulting a vein specialist for personalized recommendations on which type of treatment is best for your unique situation.
Preventing Spider Veins
Sometimes, the best type of treatment is prevention. Although you can’t control all of your risk factors, your vein health may benefit from following a healthy lifestyle.
To help prevent varicose and spider veins, we generally recommend:
- Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a well-rounded diet
- Quit smoking
- Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
- Manage underlying health conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure
- Wear compression socks
- Use sunscreen on exposed skin
- Consult a vein specialist
If you are unable to accomplish these goals, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a range of helpful resources, including medical weight loss centers and smoking cessation programs.