What You Need to Know About Spider Veins

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Tired of looking at those ugly red, blue and purple lines on your legs? Medically, they are called telangiectasia, but the more common term is spider veins. If you have spider veins, you are not alone. They can appear anywhere on the body although they often show up on the legs or face. The good news is there is a very simple treatment available to eliminate them at the vein clinic.

What are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are small versions of varicose veins. Veins have a very specific job – they transport blood to the heart to get oxygen. To facilitate this process, there are valves built into the vein walls that keep blood from flowing backwards with gravity. When the muscles in the vein wall contracts, it pushes the valves open and moves the blood forward. When the muscles relax, the valves snap shut to keep the blood in place.

As a person ages, these valves start to lose their efficiency, allowing blood to flow back and pool until the vein swells. Spider veins are often the result of larger varicose veins that are so swollen that the blood is pushed back into the tiny veins near the skin surface creating the web you see.

Spider Vein Risk Factors

Anyone can get spider veins. In fact, most people do have a few. There are certain factors that increase the risk, however.

  • Family history – Varicose veins tend to run in families
  • Occupation – People who stand or sit all day are at greater risk
  • Obesity
  • Birth control pills
  • Gender – They are more common in women, although men get them, too.
  • Circulatory problems such as blood clots
  • Tight garments

Even small lifestyle choices like tanning can have an influence.

What is the Treatment for Spider Veins?

The gold standard treatment for spider veins is sclerotherapy. A vascular surgeon injects a solution into the spider vein bundle, usually a concentrated salt. The solution irritates the wall of the veins enough that they close. In some cases, the solution is a foam that blocks the blood flow, forcing the vein to shut down. Once the body detects the vein is closed, it reroutes the blood flow and absorbs the spider veins.  

Sclerotherapy is done right in the office and takes just a few minutes. After the treatment, patients can return to their normal activities with no downtime. The procedure comes with no pain and very little risk. It may take more one treatment to eliminate them, though. The doctor may prescribe compression stockings for a couple weeks to improve the leg circulation, as well.

There is no surefire way to prevent spider veins from forming, but lifestyle changes can help reduce the risks. Things like alternating standing and sitting, avoiding the sun and losing weight naturally improve your circulation. When varicose veins due pop up, the vein doctor is there to offer relief.