What Are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are thin, damaged veins at the surface of your skin that often resemble spider legs or, when clustered, spider webs. Patients also describe them as tiny road maps, or marbling under the skin, that’s either blue, purple, or red. They’re essentially “dead-end” veins that often develop from the excess pressure caused by venous insufficiency.
What Causes Spider Veins?
When the feeder veins deeper in the legs aren’t circulating blood properly, it creates a problem known as venous insufficiency. Typically, this happens when a valve in the vein fails to close, causing blood to collect in the vein or flow in reverse. This accumulation of pressure in the vein causes swelling and bulging below the faulty valve, and ultimately, the development of spider veins (telangiectasias) at the surface. The leg veins are supposed to pump blood up and away from the feet, delivering it to the heart. But when valves fail the blood starts leaking back the wrong way or into new vein formations known as spider veins.
Spider veins are the tiny (<1 mm) threads that branch off from feeder veins to disperse the imposed pressure. Since they are “dead-ends,” they’re useless to your circulation. Spider veins are very common, impacting at least half of the population. Many patients have no symptoms to complain of and simply dislike how spider veins look. But others deal with marked discomfort in the form of swelling, cramping, itching, and heaviness, or legs that feel restless or tired. Symptomatic patients find these sensations improve when they exercise and worsen when they sit or stand still for too long.
Who Is At Risk For Spider Veins?
Spider veins can form at any age, although they’re mostly found in adults. Risk increases after age 30 and also after pregnancy. Elevated estrogen, birth control, obesity, hormone supplementation, and jobs that keep you standing or seated all day contribute to spider veins. But the main factor that increases your chance of spider veins is the hereditary component. If both of your parents have spider veins, you’re almost certain to develop them too.
What Causes Spider Veins?
Chronic venous insufficiency, the disease that involves valve malfunction, is usually implicated in spider veins. The pressure imposed by impaired circulation forces these tiny branches to form. While they’re sometimes harmless, just like a water stain on a wall, they’re a good indication that there’s a leak beneath the surface.
What Are The Symptoms Of Spider Veins?
The most common complaint of patients with spider veins is the way they look. Like wrinkles or acne, asymptomatic spider veins can make patients feel self-conscious. However, patients with venous insufficiency have a different experience, dealing with bothersome symptoms like throbbing, restlessness, heaviness, aching, cramping, swelling, or itching. Ulcerations, rash, and discoloration can occur in patients with severe vein disease.
How Do Doctors Treat Spider Veins?
Our Houston doctors can determine whether your spider veins require treatment. Patients with symptomatic veins need to be checked for venous insufficiency to adequately relieve their symptoms. Those who want the veins removed for aesthetic reasons also have excellent treatment options at our vein center. Sclerotherapy is one minimally invasive treatment we often use for symptomatic and asymptomatic spider veins.
What Is the Best Treatment for Spider Veins?
The best spider vein treatment can only be determined following a proper evaluation. A doctor must look beyond the superficial presentation to check for venous insufficiency. While spider veins can be treated cosmetically, if venous insufficiency goes undiagnosed and untreated, the spider veins will simply reappear.
Patients with underlying venous insufficiency prefer this solution over vein surgery. It’s not only easier and safer to perform, but it’s also an outpatient treatment, so patients don’t have to deal with hospitalization, general anesthesia, or surgical recovery time.
This gentle application of heat cauterizes the defective vein with thermal energy, causing it to close. It’s a similar tactic to laser ablation, but it uses thermal energy from high frequency sound waves, rather than lasers. Our patients are pleased that this technique is more comfortable and bruises less than laser treatment.
The pressure imposed on veins by venous insufficiency can be offset by compression stockings. When properly sized, support stockings apply gentle exterior pressure to the leg to push blood up through the veins. This helps prevent the accumulation inside of vein walls that leads to swelling, heaviness, itching, and discoloration. Schedule a formal measurement at our Texas vein center. Otherwise, the stockings won’t work correctly.
Doctors use skin laser therapy for patients whose spider veins are caused by something other than venous insufficiency, since it doesn’t treat underlying disease. It’s used as a supplement or substitute for sclerotherapy to minimize the appearance of small spider veins. Ask our doctors if you’re eligible for laser therapy, since patients with certain skin conditions and sensitivities aren’t suited to it.
Sclerotherapy is a top choice for spider veins in our Texas vein center. It’s not only safe and successful, but it’s also a quick procedure that’s performed in our office without the need for general anesthesia. Our doctors inject individual veins with an irritating sclerosing solution that causes veins to seal shut.
Discomfort from spider veins might make you hesitant to exercise. But it’s actually a great way to relieve your symptoms. When we’re active, our leg muscles are more efficient at pumping blood up to the heart, minimizing pooling and retrograde blood flow. Exercising each day makes circulation more efficient, so your veins aren’t subjected to excess pressure. Exercise won’t erase the spider veins you have (that’s what our doctors are for!), but it will make them feel better and reduce the chance of developing more. It’s especially important to stay active if your job requires you to sit or stand for several hours a day. Another good tip is to elevate your legs above your heart while you’re asleep or if you’ll be sitting still for a while.