Spider Veins Overview
What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins can have a weblike appearance or resemble spider legs branching outward, hence the name. In medical terms, they’re called telangiectasias, and they commonly stem from a condition called venous insufficiency. They’re often found on the lower body, presenting as red, purple, or blue clusters of veins.
What Causes Spider Veins?
The most frequent culprit behind spider veins is improper circulation in deeper leg veins which causes spider veins to appear at the surface. Leg veins are tasked with carrying blood back up to the heart once it delivers oxygen to the cells. The veins located deeper within the legs transport the majority of blood, but the superficial, or saphenous, veins near the skin’s surface share some of the work in that upward transit. Leg veins rely on valves that are close to keeping blood flowing upward and against the gravitational pull downward.
When circumstances cause a valve to fail, the blood leaks backward, causing pressure, bulging, and developing new spider veins at the surface. This common occurrence affects nearly half of all men and over half of all women in the United States. Some patients have no symptoms of spider veins, while others have marked discomfort. Common symptoms include leg heaviness, restlessness, cramps, fatigue, pain, and swelling, which often worsen with prolonged standing or sitting.
Who Is At Risk For Spider Veins?
While spider veins can occur at any age, their onset is primarily in adulthood. Advanced age increases the prevalence. In addition, pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone therapy, leg injury, elevated estrogen levels, obesity, and prolonged standing or sitting on the job are risk factors for spider veins. However, the most significant predictor of spider veins is your family history. Individuals whose parents both had spider veins have a 90% likelihood of developing them as well.
What Are The Symptoms Of Spider Veins?
Most spider veins are asymptomatic, with the primary complaint being their appearance. But the venous insufficiency that produces spider veins can cause a range of mild to significant symptoms like heaviness, throbbing, cramping, tingling, itching, or burning in your legs. For patients with severe venous insufficiency, symptoms might include ulcerations that heal slowly or discoloration of the skin.
How Do Doctors Treat Spider Veins?
For symptomatic spider veins or veins you’d like removed for aesthetic purposes, our vein doctors have excellent solutions, including minimally invasive treatments.
What Is the Best Treatment for Spider Veins?
Before treating spider veins, your vein doctor should evaluate you for venous insufficiency. While spider vein treatment is safe and effective at the surface, untreated vein disease will lead to its recurrence.
Vessel Ablation (Radiofrequency Ablation)
This minimally invasive form of ablation uses thermal (heat) energy to treat damaged veins. The process is similar to laser ablation, but the heat energy causes less discomfort and bruising than procedures that use laser energy.
Diminishing the appearance of spider veins is the primary goal of laser therapy. Our doctors can use laser therapy separately or in conjunction with other treatments for optimal results. This treatment won’t address underlying venous insufficiency and is not recommended for some skin types, so seek laser therapy from a trained physician.
One of the most common methods of eradicating spider veins, this procedure is performed in your doctor’s office. Your physician injects an irritant into individual veins to seal the vein’s walls closed, eliminating each damaged vein.
Exercise contracts our leg muscles which facilitates blood flow back to our heart. Daily exercise is key to maintaining adequate circulation. While exercise won’t eliminate existing spider veins, it will prevent new ones from forming. In addition, those with venous insufficiency should avoid sitting or standing for long periods. Talk to your doctor about simple tips like elevating your legs while seated or lying down to reduce pressure and swelling in the veins.