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What to Do About Reticular Veins

In most cases, patients consider reticular veins a cosmetic issue.  When their presence affects self-confidence, visiting a vein clinic for a consultation can provide reassurance that the appropriate vein treatment will cause these vessels to disappear.

What is a Reticular Vein?

It is a feeder vein that transports blood to skin capillaries.  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, these veins are a type of varicose veins, along with venous lakes and hemorrhoids.  These swollen vessels look like green or blue traces underneath the skin’s surface.  A majority of adults eventually develop them.  Individuals with larger reticular vessels that remain untreated can develop spider veins, also primarily a cosmetic problem.

Reticular vessels are generally smaller than varicose veins yet might have a similar rope-like appearance, Harvard Medical School reports.  They most often develop on the back of a leg, often in the knee area.  Reticular vessels might feed into spider veins, which are smaller, or branch into them.

A number of factors are associated with the development of a reticular vein, which occurs when the thin walls of a vessel expand as a response to pressure. Vein doctors cite the most common as:

  • A family history of varicose veins
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Female gender
  • Excess weight
  • Prolonged standing or walking

Reticular Vein Treatment Options

Patients bothered by unsightly veins have several treatment options.  The specialists who treat these vessels are vein doctors, also known as vascular surgeons.

The most conservative option is a self-care approach.  An initial visit to a vein clinic could result in a recommendation that a patient takes these steps:

  • Elevate the legs several times a day
  • Get regular exercise to improve blood flow
  • Use over-the-counter pain medication as necessary
  • Wear compression stockings
  • Avoid tight clothing around the legs or the waist

If reticular problems persist despite self-care, vascular surgeons can offer more options and will recommend the vein treatment best suited to each patient.  A miniphlebectomy is an outpatient procedure that typically takes between 20 and 40 minutes, according to Stony Brook Medicine.  With this technique, a vein doctor removes the targeted vessels through 1- to 2-mm incisions.  The procedure results in some bruising, which disappears within four to six weeks.  When ultrasound shows abnormalities in the saphenous vein, endovenous ablation of that vein typically occurs at the same time as a miniphlebectomy for reticular vessels.

Sclerotherapy is an additional outpatient treatment often performed to treat these veins.  The physician injects a special sclerosing agent into the targeted vessel.  The UC Davis Health System reports that the solution causes scarring in the vein, causing it to close and eventually resorb.  This technique is also commonly used for spider and small varicose veins and generally requires minimal recovery time.  Blood that flows through the destroyed vein instead flows through neighboring healthy veins.

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