Thread veins, also called spider veins or broken veins, are a benign medical condition that tends to affect people’s lower limbs as they get older. Thread veins are generally not harmful, but they can be unsightly and embarrassing. Most people seek removal treatments for thread veins to improve their appearance and self-confidence. There are several treatment options a person may consider.
Common Causes of Thread Veins
Thread veins occur as a result of problems in the circulatory system. Healthy veins continually direct blood towards the heart through a series of one-way valves. Occasionally, these valves may break down or malfunction, allowing blood to pool in the vein. This causes the vein to bulge and twist until it becomes noticeable on the surface of the skin.
While there is no one sure cause of thread veins, several lifestyle and biological factors may contribute to them:
- Drinking alcohol excessively
- Trauma to the skin or extremities
- Excessive temperature changes
- Hormonal changes due to pregnancy or menopause
- Normal aging
- Genetic predisposition
The traditional treatment for thread veins is microsclerotherapy. This treatment involves injecting the vein with a chemical that causes the vein walls to stick together. This blocks blood flow and stimulates the body to redirect the blood to deeper veins and reabsorb the broken vein. Since the process involves multiple small needle injections, there is some discomfort and pain during the procedure.
The recovery period for this treatment can be extensive. The process results in bruising that clears away naturally within weeks or months. The area may be sensitive during this time. The severity of bruising varies from person to person depending on their health and the number and size of veins treated. Very large veins may result in deeper bruising that will fade to a dark brown discolouration. The discolouration may take up to one year to fade completely. Medical compression stockings are often worn to improve bruise recovery and shorten the time.
While microsclerotherapy is effective, it may require additional treatments to remove all veins. Generally, a single treatment will remove 60-70 per cent of the veins. A patient must then wait for bruising to fade before going for an additional treatment.
Laser and IPL Treatment
A more advanced and arguably more effective treatment involves the use of laser or intense pulsed light to remove the offending veins. This treatment is non-invasive and involves targeting the area with red laser light. The laser energy is absorbed by the blood vessels but not the skin or surrounding tissue. There is no burning or scarring possible with this treatment. The energy heats the blood until it coagulates, creating a blockage. The body then reacts to absorb the damaged vein and direct the blood elsewhere, similar to the reaction of microsclerotherapy.
Unlike with microsclerotherapy, there is basically no downtime or special recovery needed with laser light treatments. In most cases, the treated veins will vanish within weeks. The patient can go about their daily business immediately after treatment and may apply makeup to the affected area to cover any redness or discolouration as the veins fade.
Most patients will require between two and five treatments to completely remove the veins. Unlike with microsclerotherapy, repeat treatments may be done relatively quickly.
Laser treatment can be mildly painful. The patient is conscious during the procedure, but he or she may be given a numbing cream to help relieve any pain. Pain should subside very soon after treatment, and no long-term pain management or use of painkillers is needed.
This treatment option combines some elements of microsclerotherapy and laser therapy. As in microsclerotherapy, a needle is used to apply a chemical substance to the vein. In this case, that chemical heats the vein and causes the blood to coagulate similar to that of laser therapy. It is useful in treating smaller veins that may not be treatable with sclerotherapy.
This treatment also has minimal to no downtime or recovery needed. Veins may disappear within moments of the treatment, making it faster than either of the other methods. There is no bruising and only minimal discomfort. Most patients will not need to have any anaesthetic or painkillers during or after treatment.
In addition to the specific aftercare mentioned for microsclerotherapy, patients treated by any method will want to consider the following aftercare steps for at least 24-48 hours after treatment. The doctor may recommend additional aftercare steps for each individual patient, which should be followed as well.
- It can be helpful to soothe the skin with Aloe Vera gel.
- Avoid the use of any other perfumed creams, moisturizers or oils.
- Avoid prolonged contact with sunlight.
- Avoid exposure to excessive hot or cold temperatures. This includes ice and hot or cold baths or showers.
Prevention of Thread Veins
In most cases, thread veins cannot be entirely prevented. They are a natural occurrence of age and degradation of the circulatory system. That said, people can take several steps to decrease the likelihood of thread veins or keep their severity to a minimum.
Lifestyle changes are key to helping prevent thread veins. This includes getting plenty of exercise in the legs and feet, such as jogging or walking. It also includes maintaining a healthy weight so that circulation in the legs and feet is less stressed. If your job involves long periods of standing or sitting, it is important to stretch or move the legs and feet periodically to keep good circulation and blood flow.
Thread Vein Recurrence
All of the treatments for thread veins generally result in the permanent removal of the treated vein. Treatment, however, is very site specific. Only directly treated veins will be removed, and the treatment does not prevent the occurrence of new veins. Over time, patients will likely have some occurrence of additional veins at or near the treated area or at different areas of the body. They may need additional treatments to remove the new veins. This does not mean that previous treatments have failed.
Treatment for unsightly thread veins, spider veins or varicose veins is possible. The majority of patients respond very well to treatment and can continue about their daily lives with minimal to no complications. Freedom from embarrassing veins is possible today. A doctor can help a patient choose the treatment method that is right for them.
Thread Vein Treatment in Cheshire
Thread vein treatment with Mr Dimitri MB BCH, MSc, FRCS is available at various Healthcare Commission recognised facilities covering Cheshire, Chester, North Wales, Manchester, Stockport, Warrington, Wirral and Liverpool.
Your initial consultation will involve a clinical examination in addition to an ultrasound scan to identify the type of varicose veins present and guide the decision regarding the optimum treatment strategy. Some patients with thread veins will not require ultrasound scanning.