What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are small, damaged veins that appear in the form of thin lines or branches on the legs. They can be blue, red, or purple and are sometimes called thread veins. Although not usually harmful or painful, some people may wish to treat them for cosmetic reasons.
Spider veins appear in the legs when the valves in the veins stop working properly. In order to carry blood back to the heart, the veins contain a one-way valve that closes once blood passes through it. If this valve is damaged or weakened, the blood struggles to flow back to the heart and begins to pool inside the vein. Over time, a bulge in the vein forms and branches out, causing spider veins.
Difference Between Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
Although spider veins are similar to varicose veins, spider veins are much smaller and closer to the surface of the skin. The causes of spider veins and varicose veins are the same, as are the risk factors, but spider veins are usually only a cosmetic concern for people. In some cases, they can cause mild discomfort.
Signs and symptoms of spider veins include:
- Small, threadlike, blue, red, or purple veins
- Mild, dull discomfort
- Burning sensation
Risk Factors of Spider Veins
Factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing spider veins are:
- Genetics: Almost 90 percent of people with spider veins have a family history of them.
- Becoming older: Aging causes the valves in veins, as well as the calf muscles – which help to support the veins in the legs to pump blood upward – to get weaker over time.
- Female sex: Spider veins often affect women more often than men because birth control and hormonal treatments for menopause may increase estrogen, which can weaken vein valves.
- Pregnancy: The extra weight of the fetus, along with increased blood moving through the body, can put more pressure on the leg veins during pregnancy. Sometimes the spider veins disappear after pregnancy, but they can be permanent.
- Obesity: Added pressure on the legs can be caused by extra body weight.
- Sitting or standing for extended periods: When a person stays in the same position for several hours at a time, veins in the legs have to work harder to pump blood up toward the heart.
Diagnosing Spider Veins
During a diagnosis you will have a physical exam. The doctor should be able to make a diagnosis just by looking at the veins, but they might use other tests, such as ultrasound imaging to test vein function, to determine the proper treatment.
Treatments of Spider Veins
Although mostly harmless, spider veins can be uncomfortable, and you may want to remove them for cosmetic reasons. While certain lifestyle changes and self-care tips such as wearing sunscreen, maintaining a healthy weight, wearing compression stockings, and staying mobile will help prevent new spider veins from appearing or getting worse, these often won’t correct spider veins you may already have. If you are concerned about the appearance or discomfort of your spider veins, more treatment options are available.
- Sclerotherapy is a minimally-invasive procedure used for both cosmetic and medical purposes.
- Cosmetic sclerotherapy treats spider veins in the legs by using a tiny needle to inject a solution (sclerosant) into a vein just below the skin level. The solution causes the vein to scar, harden and eventually collapse, which forces blood to change routes to healthier veins. The collapsed vein is reabsorbed by the body and disappears. This procedure is done in 20-30 minutes with only minor discomfort.
- Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy treats deep veins that are symptomatic and not easily seen or reached at the surface level of the skin. Using ultrasound, a clinician “maps” out these veins and guides treatment to the right spot. The rest of the procedure is similar to cosmetic sclerotherapy where a small amount of sclerosant agent is injected into the vein(s), which eventually collapses and is reabsorbed by the body.
If you’re looking to reduce the appearance of unsightly spider veins and regain your confidence, contact The Vein Institute of Hunterdon to schedule a consultation today.