For most individuals considering treatment, spider veins are a cosmetic rather than a medical issue. Understanding the basics of this vascular disorder and the spider vein treatment options available can help reduce patient stress.
Overview of Spider Veins
Spider veins are visible signs of venous insufficiency. According to the American College of Phlebology, patients with this underlying vascular disorder are likely to experience:
- Feelings of heaviness in a leg
- Pain or discomfort
- Swollen legs
- Leg cramping
- Leg fatigue
Spider veins get their name from their web-like appearance. These small vessels are usually red, blue, or purple and typically develop on a patient’s legs or face. They are similar to varicose veins but are smaller and usually closer to the surface of the skin.
These vessels form when veins previously too tiny to be seen stretch because of defective valves that allow blood to leak backward and pool. As the veins expand, they become visible as streaks or clusters.
Physicians recognize quite a few causes of spider veins, the Cleveland Clinic reports. The most common include:
- Family history
- Growing older
- Being obese or overweight
- Hormonal shifts
- Prolonged standing or sitting
- Vein injury
Choices for Spider Vein Treatment
Treatment for spider veins is available on an outpatient basis from a physician who specializes in vascular problems. The goal of some treatments is preventing the condition from worsening or lessening the chances that new spider veins will develop. Other therapies eliminate existing veins. Depending on the severity of each case, a patient might undergo a mixture of treatment options.
The three categories of treatment include:
- Conservative measures often require lifestyle modifications like losing weight, avoiding tight clothing and shoes, wearing compression stockings, getting more exercise, elevating the legs whenever possible, following good skin hygiene, and not crossing the legs.
- Sclerotherapy is the most common method of eliminating spider veins. Doctors sometimes also use it to treat small varicose veins. Many doctors combine the technique with ultrasound for precision. Using a small needle, the physician injects a substance called a sclerosant into each targeted vessel. The sclerosant irritates the walls of the vein, causing them to become sticky and the vein to close and eventually disappear. Healthy vessels assume the workload of the destroyed vein. The number of sessions required depends on the size, number, and location of the vessels targeted for elimination. With the exception of strenuous activities, patients are usually able to resume their normal routines the following day.
- Laser and light therapy use heat to shrink and eliminate spider veins. Several sessions might be required for laser treatment. Pulse-light therapy relies on sending out a spectrum of light and is useful for selectively shrinking spider veins, vascular birthmarks, and certain small varicose veins.
No treatment to eliminate veins can prevent new ones from developing. For this reason, some patients return for periodic treatment.