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Treating Spider Veins

Spider veins are a common problem that appear as red, blue or purple lines on the skin of the legs, face and others areas of the body. At least 50% of women eventually develop spider veins, which can cause bothersome physical symptoms in addition to cosmetic worries. Sclerotherapy and laser vein therapy are proven methods for eliminating unsightly spider veins.

What are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are fine veins that appear as red, blue or purple lines on the surface of the skin. They usually appear on the thighs and legs, but can also develop on the face and other parts of the body. These veins are not an essential part of the venous system (the network of veins that carry blood back to the heart) and can be safety removed. Spider veins are known medically as "telangiectasia" and are also called "sunburst varicosities."

Spider veins can appear on the skin in several different designs:

  • A web-like pattern, or "starburst," with veins extending outward from a single dark spot on the skin.
  • A tree-branch pattern, with veins appearing as interconnected lines in the shape of tree branches.
  • A linear pattern, with veins appearing as separate lines.

Though spider veins are considered to be a cosmetic problem, they can also cause worrisome physical symptoms, such as itching, burning, aching, swelling, cramps and tenderness.

In contrast to spider veins, varicose veins are larger and may appear as swollen, bulging or knotted veins that are dark blue or purple in color. Sclerotherapy is sometimes used to treat varicose veins, but they often must be removed by surgery. Varicose veins, which usually develop on the legs, can cause pain and may be related to a serious vein disorder.

Because spider veins usually develop after the age of 30, the majority of sclerotherapy procedures are performed on patients at least 30 years of age. According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 95% of sclerotherapy patients were 30 and older, and 75% of patients were 40 and older.

What Causes Spider Veins?

Both spider veins and varicose veins are caused when blood collects in the veins because of weakening of the one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward as it moves toward the heart. These conditions are most prevalent in the legs because of the increased pressure to the leg veins from gravity, body weight and distance to the heart. People who have gained weight or whose occupation requires prolonged standing are at greater risk of developing spider veins in the legs.

Spider veins can appear as early as the teenage years, but usually occur after the age of 30. People with a family history of spider veins or other circulatory problems are more likely to develop them.

The hormonal changes that take place during puberty, pregnancy and menopause also contribute to the development of spider veins, as does the use of birth control pills and medications that contain estrogen and progesterone. During pregnancy, the veins are enlarged by an increase in the amount of blood in the body and greater pressure is put on the veins by expansion of the uterus. For most women, spider veins that develop during pregnancy improve significantly within 3 months after delivery.

Spider veins on the face, usually on the nose or cheeks, can be caused by exposure to the sun.

Options for Spider Vein Removal

Sclerotherapy and laser vein therapy are minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures for eliminating unsightly spider veins and restoring a youthful, healthy look to your skin.

Sclerotherapy

During Sclerotherapy, a mild solution in injected into the spider veins that stops the flow of blood and turns the veins into scar tissue. Best results are usually seen after three to four monthly treatments. Pain is minimal and most patients can immediately resume their normal activities.

Laser Vein Therapy

Laser Spider Vein Therapy uses the latest advancements in medical technology to coagulate the blood within spider veins and cause them to be absorbed by the body. Lasers are very effective for smaller spider veins, such as those that occur on the face. As with sclerotherapy, multiple treatments may be needed for best results. After treatment, spider veins gradually fade within 6 weeks.