What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias, are small thin blood vessels visible beneath the skin. They usually develop on the face or legs, and may look like a series of thin tree branches or strands of a spider web. Although most spider veins are only a cosmetic issue, for some people they can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as aching, burning, swelling and leg-cramping.
Spider veins are extremely common, affecting nearly half of the adult population of the United States. Many patients are bothered when spider veins develop on prominent areas such as the legs or face, and seek treatment to eliminate them. Many spider-vein treatments are highly effective and minimally invasive, offering aesthetically pleasing results without painful or lengthy downtime.
Causes Of Spider Veins
Spider veins develop from a back-flow of blood in the veins. This condition, which results from damaged valves in the veins, is called “venous reflux.” As blood collects in these veins, their walls distend. This increases the size of the veins, and makes them visible under the surface of the skin. When smaller, more superficial veins are involved, a web of red or blue thin branches appear on the surface of the skin, usually on the legs or face.
Risk Factors For Developing Spider Veins
Risk factors for developing spider veins include the following:
- Increasing age over 50
- Family history
- Prolonged sitting or standing
- Hormonal changes
- Lack of exercise
- Sun exposure
Hormonal changes increase the risk of developing spider veins. There is a higher risk of developing the problem during puberty, menopause, pregnancy and while taking birth control medication. Since extra weight puts stress on veins, pregnancy involves a double risk. This is why more women than men develop spider veins.
How Are Spider Veins Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of spider veins includes the following:
- Physical examination of the patient
- Analysis of symptoms
- Diagnostic ultrasound
Spider Veins Before and After Photos
Treatment Options For Spider Veins
Spider veins can be treated in a number of ways, all of which are minimally invasive. As with so many other medical conditions, weight loss and regular exercise are helpful in treating spider veins and particularly in keeping them from developing into varicose veins.
The simplest solution for treating spider veins is for the patient to wear compression stockings, which put pressure on the affected veins and promote blood flow back to the heart. This method is designed to control the symptoms of spider veins, not remove them.
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a sclerosant, a solution designed to collapse them, into the veins. This procedure is performed in a doctor’s office. Each treatment takes approximately one hour, and a typical patient requires two to four treatments.
There are several different types of laser treatment available, including endovenous laser ablation surgery. This treats large veins by passing a laser fiber through a catheter directly into the vein. Veins just under the surface of the skin can be treated with a simpler laser procedure over the course of several treatment sessions.
After performing a physical examination and going over a patient’s medical history and general health, the doctor will decide which procedure is best for each individual patient.
Benefits of Laser Treatment for Spider Veins
Laser treatment for spider veins offers patients:
- Fewer side effects
- Less trauma
- Shorter treatment time
- Shorter recovery time
- Minimal downtime
How to Prepare for Spider Vein Treatment
In preparing for spider vein treatment, the doctor may recommend that a patient adhere to the following:
- Avoid smoking beginning at least one week before the scheduled treatment.
- Avoid all medications and supplements that thin the blood, such as aspirin and some herbal supplements.
- Adjust current medications if necessary.
- Patients should avoid using lotion or oil on the treatment area for 24 hours before vein treatment. Shaving should also be avoided during that time.
- On the day of the appointment, patients should wear loose clothing or shorts.
After Care for Sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy is a conservative, minimally-invasive procedure that is performed in the office with no need for anesthesia or numbing. To maximize the benefits of this procedure, patients may be advised to:
- Wear compression stockings for the first 2 days after treatment.
- After 2 days of continuous wear, compression stockings should be worn during the day for another week.
- Avoid strenuous activity for 3 to 4 days. During this time, patients may walk and engage in light activity. No running, jogging, or high-intensity exercise.
- Avoid blood-thinning medications and supplements for 2 days.
- Avoid excessive heat, including saunas, hot tubs, and hot baths or showers.
- Avoid flying for one week after vein treatment.
- Avoid direct sun exposure to the treated area for 4 weeks.
- Avoid sunless tanning lotions for 4 weeks.
After Care for Laser Treatment Of Spider Veins
After undergoing laser vein treatment, patients can cool the treatment site by applying a cold cloth for up to 20 minutes at a time. Ice and frozen objects should not be applied directly to the skin. Pre-moistened and cooled 4×4 gauze pads are a good option for soothing the minor inflammation that may occur after laser treatment.
The aftercare instructions for laser vein treatment are similar to those associated with sclerotherapy. Patients should be careful to avoid trauma to the treated area. Excessive heat and strenuous activity should be avoided for at least a few days, but walking should be a daily activity that takes 30 to 45 minutes. After laser vein treatment, patients should avoid direct sun exposure and apply broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily.
Who Is A Candidate For Spider Vein Treatment?
Because spider veins are not medically concerning, removal treatments are generally chosen as a way to improve appearance. A vein specialist looks for the following characteristics when discussing the value of spider vein treatment:
- The patient can follow through with aftercare instructions.
- The patient understands that vein treatment cannot prevent new spider veins and varicose veins from forming in the future.
- The patient has tried to reduce spider veins with conservative methods such as regular exercise and wearing compression stockings.
Adults from their early 20s to their 80s can be good candidates for spider vein treatments. Ideal candidates will not have a history of blood clots or blood clotting issues. Patients should also understand that their vein treatment will not work overnight. It takes time for the body to reroute blood flow and absorb the veins that have been closed.
Who Is Not A Candidate For Spider Vein Treatment?
A patient may not be a good candidate if they:
- Have had a blood clot in the past.
- Has a medical condition that affects blood clotting.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women should wait at least 3 months after childbirth or stopping breastfeeding to obtain vein treatment.
- Are taking anticoagulant (blood thinning) medication or supplements. In this instance, the patient may stop or change their dosage before vein treatment.
- Have a serious infection or illness.
- Cannot follow through with aftercare instructions.
- Have unrealistic expectations related to the speed of vein removal or future prevention.
- Are bedridden.
Doctors generally do not approve the removal of a vein that could be used later in a bypass procedure.
Prevention Of Spider Veins
Although there is no sure way to prevent spider veins, making certain lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of developing them. Lifestyle changes include losing weight, exercising regularly, and wearing support stockings and comfortable, flat shoes. It is also important to move the legs frequently, especially during long periods of sitting or standing in one place.
Spider Vein Treatment Patient Testimonial
“I’ve always felt so self-conscious about the veins on my leg & now I feel comfortable wearing a skirt again. Thank you too Dr. Kapusta for getting rid of those ugly spider veins. You are so nice to do that for me. I’m telling everyone at Continental to come see you & how great of a job you all did.”
To read more patient testimonials, click here!
What Happens If Spider Veins Are Left Untreated?
Spider veins are not usually dangerous, but left untreated they may develop into varicose veins which are a more serious medical condition. Varicose veins may result in pain, fatigue, or inflammation of the skin and may be evidence of arteriosclerosis or clotting difficulties.
Spider Veins Vs. Varicose Veins
Although they result from the same type of vascular malfunction as varicose veins, spider veins are much less serious. Spider veins are a superficial manifestation of the problem. When veins become varicose, their walls have thinned considerably and blood has pooled in them so that they appear as palpable dark cords on the surface of the skin.