Spider veins are tiny blood vessels that become visible on the surface of your skin after becoming dilated, or large enough for you to see them. The dilated veins usually show up as blue, red, or sometimes purple lines. These tiny veins most commonly appear on the face and legs, although spider veins can develop anywhere.
The medical name for spider vein is telangiectasias, pronounced tel-an-gi-ec-TAY-sias. Most people call them “spider veins” because the network of tiny veins can sometimes look like a spider web.
They may appear alone or in conjunction with varicose veins, which are larger twisted blood vessels. These tiny diseased veins can sometimes cause aching, pain, or burning, especially if you have been standing for a long time. While usually harmless, spider veins are often embarrassing.
Spider veins and varicose veins are common in both genders but slightly more common in women than in men. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) says that more than 40 percent of women have some sort of varicose vein condition, which includes spider veins. The incidence of these vein conditions rises when a person grows older – 80 percent of women have one of these vein problems by the age of 80.
Medical science has not yet determined the exact cause of spider veins but medical professionals have determined that heredity, aging, pregnancy, sun damage, trauma, and hormones can contribute to the development of these unsightly veins.
Treatments for Spider Veins
Treatments for spider veins work by damaging the diseased vein beyond repair. The damaged spider veins collapse and eventually break up. Your body routes blood flow through other veins. Tissues near the treated areas absorb the remnants of the veins to leave behind smooth, attractive skin.
There are two main types of spider vein treatments – sclerotherapy and laser. Sclerotherapy uses chemicals to close off spider veins while laser treatments harness the power of light energy.
Sclerotherapy for Spider Veins
Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive treatment, involving injections with a tiny needle instead of surgery. The treatment is relatively painless and does not require anesthesia. Vein doctors perform sclerotherapy at outpatient vein clinics, so there is no overnight stay at a hospital.
Each vein may need repeated treatments to achieve full effect. Each sclerotherapy treatment eliminates 50 to 80 percent of the injected veins, according to RadiologyInfo.org, which means it completely erases all signs of the unsightly vein. Other treated veins fade significantly and typically disappear completely with subsequent treatments.
As with all medical procedures, spider vein treatment with sclerotherapy may cause side effects. Adverse reactions to chemical treatment for spider veins include swelling, itching, and skin color changes at the treatment site. These side effects are usually mild and go away without treatment.
Laser Treatments for Spider Veins
Laser treatments are also minimally invasive outpatient procedures done at your local vein clinic. Laser treatments do not even require needles. These treatments involve strong bursts of light to destroy diseased veins.
Spider vein treatment with lasers is slightly less effective than sclerotherapy, especially for larger veins. Side effects associated with laser treatments include redness, bruising, swelling, itching, and permanent changes to skin tone.
It may take several months for spider veins to fade. After treatment, new spider veins may develop in the same area.