Spider veins are small threadlike veins that lie close to the surface of the skin. They connect to the larger veins but are non-essential. Spider veins are usually not associated with symptoms.

Causes of Spider Veins

Heredity is the number one contributing factor causing varicose and spider veins. Women are more likely than men to suffer from abnormal leg veins with up to half of American women being affected. Hormonal factors including puberty, pregnancy, menopause, the use of birth control pills, estrogen, and progesterone contribute to this condition. It is very common for pregnant women to develop varicose veins during the first trimester since pregnancy causes increases in hormone levels and blood volume which in turn cause veins to enlarge. Varicose veins due to pregnancy often improve within 3 months after delivery. However, with successive pregnancies, abnormal veins are more likely to remain. Other predisposing factors include aging, standing occupations, obesity and leg injury.

The Difference Between Spider & Varicose Veins

Arteries carry blood from the heart towards the body parts, while veins carry blood from the body parts back to the heart. As the blood is pumped back to the heart, veins act as one-way valves to prevent the blood from flowing backwards. If the one-way valve becomes weak, some of the blood can leak back into the vein, collect there, and then become congested or clogged. This congestion will cause the vein to abnormally enlarge. These enlarged veins can be either varicose veins or spider veins.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are very swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. They are dark purple or blue in color, and can look like cords or very twisted and bulging. They are found most often on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg, anywhere from the groin to the ankle. During pregnancy, varicose veins called hemorrhoids can form in the vagina or around the anus.

Spider Veins

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they are smaller, are often red or blue in color, and are closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins. They can look like a tree branch or spider web with their short jagged lines. Spider veins can be found on both the legs and the face. They can cover either a very small or very large area of skin.

Treatment Options

New technology in laser treatments can effectively treat spider veins in the legs. Laser surgery sends very strong bursts of light onto the vein. This can makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. Lasers are very direct and accurate. So the proper laser controlled by a skilled doctor will usually only damage the area being treated. Most skin types and colors can be safely treated with lasers.

Laser surgery is more appealing to some patients because it does not use needles or incisions. When the laser hits the skin, the patient may feel a heat sensation. Cooling helps reduce the pain. Laser treatments last for up to twenty minutes. Depending on the severity of the veins, two to five treatments are generally needed to remove spider veins in the legs. Typically, patients can return to normal activity right after treatment.

Sclerotherapy is a procedure in which a chemical solution is injected into veins to cause them to collapse and form scar tissue that permanently closes them. Nearby veins take up re-routed blood flow. Sclerotherapy requires multiple treatments to close off all affected veins. Additional treatments may be needed from time to time as new enlarged veins appear. Side effects of sclerotherapy may include slight swelling, bruising, and redness and itching at injection sites.

See Also: Facial Veins and Broken Capillaries