Known also as telangiectasias, spider veins are thin blood vessels that are blue, red or purple in color. They often appear on the surface of the
skin, mainly on the face (nose and cheeks) or legs (thighs, calves and ankles).
On occasion, they develop elsewhere. Spider veins are given their name because
they take on the shape of a spider web, whereby the veins branch out in various
directions from a central location.
While spider veins are typically treated for cosmetic
reasons, there are times where these veins can cause symptoms like night cramps,
fatigue, swelling, itching, burning or aching.
Diagnosing Spider VeinsSince
spider veins may signal an underlying circulatory problem like venous
insufficiency, or an autoimmune disease like lupus, your vein specialist will
likely order imaging studies and/or blood tests to help diagnose any potential
underlying conditions. These tests are also performed in order to evaluate
valve function, understand your valve structure, determine if blood clots are
present in the veins and assess the amount of blood that is flowing back into
the legs. A physical exam and questions about your symptoms are also in order,
and are the first steps your doctor will take. All of this information will be
used to help your vein doctor choose the proper course of treatment.
Treating Spider VeinsShould
an underlying medical condition exist, your doctor will take measures to treat
that condition before addressing the cosmetic aspect of your spider veins. When
treatment of the spider veins does occur, it will consist of one or both kinds
of spider vein therapies.
Sclerotherapy – the doctor will inject a chemical solution
into the vein using a very thin needle. This will cause the lining of the vein
to become inflamed and harden into scar tissue. The scarred tissue closes off
the vein and is later absorbed by the body. The absorption process causes the
vein to shrink, making it no longer visible at the surface of the skin. To make
up for the loss of the vein, blood is sent to the heart via healthy,
functioning veins found deeper within the venous system. For the 10 percent of
patients whose bodies do not respond to sclerotherapy, laser treatment may be a more
Laser and light treatment – a high-intensity beam of light is directed at
the spider veins, causing them to heat up. The heat damages the blood vessel
walls, which triggers the veins to shrink and disappear over time. This
particular treatment is best for facial veins, and while it can be used on
other areas of the body, it is not typically used on the legs.
both treatments, results may take several weeks. Regarding self-care after your
procedure, your vein specialist may advise you to wear compression stockings,
elevate your legs and do light exercises. All of these tactics help minimize
symptoms and prevent the development of new spider veins.