Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias, are small, thin blood vessels visible beneath the skin. They appear most commonly on the face or legs, and may looks like a series of thin tree branches or strands of a spider web. While most spider veins are of purely cosmetic concern, some patients may also experience uncomfortable symptoms such as aching, burning, swelling and cramping of the legs from this condition.
Spider veins are extremely common, affecting nearly half of the adult population of the United States. Many patients are bothered by the appearance of spider veins on prominent areas such as the legs or face, and seek treatment to restore a smooth, clear appearance to the skin. Many treatments of spider veins are highly effective and minimally invasive, offering aesthetically pleasing results without painful or lengthy downtimes.
Causes of Spider Veins
Spider veins develop as a result of a backflow of blood in certain veins. This condition, which results from damaged valves in the veins, is called venous reflux. As blood collects in the affected veins, their walls distend and the veins become larger and visible under the surface of the skin. Risk factors that make the appearance of spider veins more likely may include the following:
- Increasing age
- Family history of spider veins
- Hormonal changes
- Lack of exercise
- Sun exposure
Diagnosis of Spider Veins
Spider veins are diagnosed through physical examination, patient symptoms and a possible diagnostic ultrasound.
Treatment of Spider Veins
There are several minimally invasive treatment options available to eliminate the appearance of spider veins and allow patients to proudly show off their legs. These treatments offer patients fewer side effects, less pain and shorter recovery times than traditional surgical vein removal procedures.
The simplest solution to the problem of spider veins is for the patient to wear compression stockings to put pressure on the affected veins and promote blood flow. This method, however, is often not sufficient to resolve the issue.
Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a sclerosant, a solution designed to collapse veins. This procedure is performed outpatient in the doctor's office. Each treatment takes approximately one hour. A typical patient requires two to four treatments to resolve the problem.
Endovenous Laser Treatment
This treatment, also known as EVLT or laser ablation, consists of inserting a catheter with a laser probe attached to it directly into the affected vein. The laser heat seals off the damaged vein and diverts blood flow to healthier vessels.
Prevention of Spider Veins
While there is no sure way to prevent spider veins from developing, there are certain lifestyle modifications that can help reduce the risk of developing this unsightly conditions. These preventive steps include losing weight, exercising regularly, wearing support stockings and comfortable, flat shoes. It is important to move the legs frequently, especially during long periods of sitting or standing in one place. Physicians can provide patients with specific guidelines to reduce the risk of spider veins.