Spider veins are small, enlarged veins that appear red or blue usually on the legs, but also on the face and other areas. They may be short, unconnected lines or form a pattern that looks like a sunburst, spider web or tree branches. Small areas of spider veins may be barely noticeable, but veins covering large areas of the skin can be quite unattractive.
Varicose veins are larger dilated blood vessels that may be raised above the skin surface and can occur along with spider veins.
Both types of vein can cause discomfort ranging from a dull, throbbing pain to a burning sensation.
Causes and Prevention
The cause of spider veins is not completely clear. The condition may run in families. Because these veins are more common in women than men, female hormones may play a role. They may also appear after an injury or as the result of wearing tight girdles or other tight elastic.
Spider veins and varicose veins can't always be prevented. However, these recommendations may help:
Wearing support hose
Maintaining a normal weight
Eating a high-fiber diet
Wearing low-heeled shoes
Using sun protection to help prevent spider veins on the face
Your dermatologist can treat unsightly or uncomfortable veins to greatly improve their appearance in 50 to 90 percent of cases. Since before the 1930's dermatologists have used a procedure called sclerotherapy, in which a special solution is injected into the veins eventually turning them into scar tissue that is absorbed by the body leaving the vein barely noticeable or invisible.
A number of blood vessels can be injected in each treatment session, and more than one treatment may be required depending on the size of the vein.
If larger varicose veins are associated with spider veins, your dermatologist may recommend treating those blood vessels first. Varicose veins can be treated with sclerotherapy, intravascular laser or radiofrequency, followed by compression. Surgical procedures that tie veins off or remove them are also available, but usually reserved for larger varicose veins.
Different types of lasers and intense pulsed light have been used to successfully treat spider veins on the face.
Even when procedures for treating problem veins are performed by an experienced dermatologist, there are possible side effects. Most are temporary and easily managed. Your dermatologist will discuss these with you prior to treatment.
After several treatments, most patients can expect a 50 to 90 percent improvement in the appearance of unwanted veins. However, this improvement is gradual with veins disappearing over a few months.
Larger veins may recur even after surgical treatment. There may also be a recurrence of spider veins or new spider veins can appear in the same general area.
After treatment self-care
Following treatment sessions, your dermatologist may recommend:
Walking to "pump" the sclerosing solution out of the circulation
Bandaging treated areas and wearing support hose to compress the treated vessels, which may help prevent some side effects, reduce the number of treatments necessary and lower the risk of recurrence.
Wearing support hose between treatments is particularly recommended for patients who spend a lot of time on their feet.
With treatment from a board certified dermatologist, spider veins and varicose veins can be successfully treated. Depending on the size and number affected veins, your dermatologist at Dermatology & Skin Surgery can recommend the best treatment option for you.