Spider veins are typically harmless and are not considered a health problem. As such, medication or surgery is not usually required to treat the condition. Sometimes, these veins can become a medical concern if they cause symptoms or are linked to venous insufficiency such as in the case of persons with varicose veins.
An increasing number of people are looking for spider vein treatment to prevent complications linked to venous insufficiency. Medical treatment options are available to help improve the appearance of spider veins, stimulate blood circulation, and reduce any health risk posed.
Some simple lifestyle adjustments are also effective in reducing the risk of developing spider veins or improving their symptoms.
What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins generally appear as a web-like, branch-like formation of fine blue, red and purple lines. They often appear on the leg or thigh but can appear in other parts of the body, such as the chin, cheek, nose, or back of the knee.
Spider veins occur just beneath the surface of the skin and are visible. These veins are usually asymptomatic, unlike varicose veins that cause pain, swelling, and discomfort. If ever spider veins result in pain and swelling, it could signal a more serious and underlying problem with the veins.
Causes of Spider Veins
Spider veins occur when the tiny blood vessels beneath the upper layer of the skin become swollen or enlarged and overfilled with blood. Placing excess pressure on the veins often cause them to dilate.
Although less frequently the case, spider veins can be a sign of a backup of blood deeper within the skin or tissue. This condition is known as venous insufficiency. When the valves or “flaps” of the veins become weak or damaged, they malfunction allowing blood to leak into the veins instead of flowing to the heart.
A vascular specialist can do a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of this venus problem and rule out any underlying medical condition, such as venous disease or deep vein thrombosis.
Are Spider Veins Different from Varicose Veins?
Spider veins and varicose veins are closely related but are two distinct types of vein problems. The differences are based on the causes and symptoms.
Varicose veins appear as thick, swollen, rope-like veins that are dark in colour and larger than spider veins. They are rough in texture, blue, red, or flesh-coloured, and raised above the skin’s surface.
Symptoms of Spider Veins
Spider veins are usually harmless and do not cause symptoms. The presence of the following symptoms may be a sign of venous insufficiency which can increase the risk of getting varicose veins:
- A network of veins visible beneath the skin
- Itching at the site of the veins
- Sensation of heaviness in the legs
- Swelling of the legs
- Tired legs
Risk Factors of Spider Veins
The cause of spider vein may vary from person to person. However, some people are more predisposed to developing spider veins due to a variety of reasons. Those in professions that require long periods of standing, or sitting, such as nursing or teaching are at a greater risk of getting this condition. Other risk factors are as follows:
- Having a family history of spider veins (genetics)
- Women over 35, especially who have more 2 or more children
- Being overweight or obese
- Sun exposure (commonly cause facial spider veins)
- Use of birth control pills
- A history of blood clots or varicose veins
- Hormonal changes caused by puberty or menopause
- Hormonal replacement therapy, e.g., in post-menopausal women
- Standing for long periods of time
- Wearing tight clothing, e.g., a girdle
- Wearing high heels
- Poor blood circulation due to immobility, e.g., when recovering from an injury
Treatment Options for Spider Veins
There are two common options for treating spider veins:
- Laser treatment
Sclerotherapy for Spider Veins
Sclerotherapy is commonly used by a certified vascular surgeon or vein specialist to treat spider veins. It has proven effective for treating leg veins as it improves the symptoms and reduces the appearance of the veins.
After cleaning the area to be treated with a sterile solution, the doctor will inject a solution or foam into the affected veins using a fine needle. A compression pad may be placed over the injected veins to help the solution disperse throughout the veins.
The solution will irritate the lining of the veins causing the blood to clot and veins to collapse and close. This forces blood to reroute through the remaining healthy veins. The closed veins will be gradually absorbed into body tissue. Some veins may disappear while others may fade in the following few weeks.
When done correctly, sclerotherapy can be an effective way of treating spider veins. Studies show that about 90% of people see improvement in the condition after therapy. The treatment plan will be based on the severity of the symptoms and the number of veins. Some clients will need more than one treatment for maximum results.
The procedure is typically done at the surgeon’s office within 20 minutes to 1 hour. The length of the procedure depends on the size of the veins and how widespread they are. Aesthetic is not usually required to perform sclerotherapy for spider veins but can be used to reduce any discomfort
Laser treatment for Spider Veins
Certain spider veins respond favorably to sclerotherapy. However, laser treatment proves to be a better option for veins that are fine or smaller, such as those that appear on the face. These veins are often difficult to inject and can be effectively treated with laser therapy.
Laser therapy is a procedure where the doctor uses a special laser device to apply waves of light energy to the affected veins. It is a non-invasive treatment and results are achieved without the use of needles or surgical incisions.
Tiny veins may disappear immediately after treatment in some clients. Larger veins take longer to fade or disappear, and the process can take weeks or months. You may need to wear a compression stocking to assist in healing and avoid exposing the treated area to the sun to reduce the risk of dark spots developing. Year-round protection from the sun is recommended to prevent new spider veins from forming.
Will All My Spider Veins Go Away?
Sclerotherapy and laser therapy are quite effective for treating spider veins. While most patients may see a dramatic improvement in their condition, it is important to note that treatment may not get rid of the veins completely. Some patients may notice new veins develop as they continue to age.
Certain lifestyle adjustment, such as exercising to improve blood circulation, may help maintain results. Otherwise, follow-up treatments may be necessary to treat new veins.
Can I Return to Regular Activities Immediately After Treatment?
Sclerotherapy is minimally invasive while laser treatment is non-invasive. This means there is no downtime. You can go back to work or resume normal activities after completing either of these procedures.
How to Reduce the Risk of Spider Veins
Based on the causes and risk factors of spider veins, you may not be able to prevent their occurrence or recurrence. However, certain lifestyle changes may help to reduce the risk of spider veins. Here are some tips to help prevent spider veins or improve the condition if you already trouble with these veins:
Rest your feet at intervals: You can relieve pressure on the feet by taking short breaks to sit or lie to rest your legs. Nurses, teachers, and factory workers are among the groups of people who are usually required to stand for extended periods of time. This adds pressure on the veins and may cause spider veins to develop.
Avoid sitting for long periods: Just like standing, sitting for long periods of time can also trigger the development of spider veins. This is often due to poor blood circulation. Experts recommend breaking at 30 minutes intervals to walk for a few minutes and allow blood flow to resume.
People who are in wheelchairs or on bed rest for a long period of time may be at a greater risk of developing these veins. Regular massages can help with blood circulation in these cases, especially if they are unable to stand or walk due to injury or illness.
Maintain a healthy weight: People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing spider veins. Excess weight places undue pressure on the legs and can lead to veins becoming weak or damaged. This creates an opportunity for blood flow to slow or clotting to occur in the veins.
Exercise regularly: Exercising is a great way to improve blood circulation in the legs and the rest of the body. Simple stretches or walking or running for 10 to 30 minutes can stimulate circulation.
Elevate your legs: Elevating the legs to a height that is higher than the heart has shown to help reduce the symptoms of spider veins. Leg elevation is also recommended for relieving varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis. After a long day, your feet deserve some pampering.
Watch those heels: Wearing high heels, especially for long periods of time, can restrict venous circulation. When in high heels your weight shifts to the balls of your heels. Your calf muscles become contracted throughout the time you’re in heels. This increases the risk of spider veins due to poor blood circulation in the leg veins.
Vein support: If you’re required to be on your feet for extended periods of time, you should wear a lightweight stocking to aid vein compression. This helps to maintain blood flow through the veins. Doctors recommend this as a good way to manage spider veins symptoms such as swelling or prevent them from developing.
Apply sunscreen: People with lighter skin should consider avoiding extended exposure to sunlight. Facial spider veins, such as on the cheek or nose, are linked to excess exposure to the sun. Wearing a sunscreen can help minimise skin damage that leads to these veins popping up.
Treat varicose veins: Varicose veins stems from a problem with blood coagulation in the veins. It may also be associated with venous disease. Treating varicose veins has proven to be a way to prevent or reduce the risk of spider veins. If you have spider veins and varicose veins, your doctor may be able to treat both of these conditions.
Is Spider Vein Treatment Right for Me?
Treating spider veins with sclerotherapy or laser treatment, may not be right for everyone. These treatments are also not medically required to correct this vein condition, except in cases where it can pose a health risk. If spider veins are causing discomforting symptoms or you are worried they may be linked to blood clot problems such as varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis, then you may qualify for treatment.
A vein specialist can determine if you’re eligible based on an examination and evaluation and after considering your medical history. Your doctor will discuss any potential risks associated with treatment. It is important to tell your doctor if:
- You have allergies
- You’re pregnant
- Have medical conditions, especially coagulation disorder, cancer, or heart disease
- You smoke
- You take oral contraceptives, prescription or OTC drugs, or supplements
Vein Solutions for Spider Veins
Sclerotherapy and laser therapy are two safe and effective medical procedures approved for treating spider veins. They can be done quickly and do not involve surgical incisions or a risk of scarring.
For optimum results, you may need more than one treatment sessions and a treatment plan to suit your individual circumstances and can determine the need for repeat treatment based on initial results.