Spider veins, or thread veins, are networks of tiny red or blue varicose veins that appear as a web, the branches of a tree, or multiple parallel lines. They are smaller than traditional varicose veins, and closer to the skin’s surface.
Spider veins often occur on the backs and sides of the thighs, just below the knees, on the ankles, and on the face. They may also occur on the upper arms and neck.
Are Spider Veins Dangerous?
Spider veins are not a health concern, but can be treated safely for cosmetic reasons. Most spider veins have no symptoms.
Causes of Spider Veins
Spider veins and varicose veins are created when poor circulation does not allow blood to make its way back to the heart from the extremities. The blood pools in the veins, causing them to swell and enlarge.
Spider veins may result from hormonal changes, sun exposure, or genetic factors. They are also common in pregnant women (usually resolving on their own after birth), in people who stand or sit for prolonged periods, and in obese individuals. Spider veins are more prevalent in women than men.
Treatment for Spider Veins
There are two available treatments for spider veins. They include:
Sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is the most common spider vein treatment. A doctor injects a solution into the vein, which causes the vein walls to stick together and the vein to collapse. Sclerotherapy for spider veins may also be referred to as microsclerotherapy. It does not require anesthesia and the injections cause only slight discomfort. Several sessions may be needed to completely eliminate spider veins.
Patients may experience some bruising and swelling after treatment. Recovery from sclerotherapy generally takes a couple of days.
Laser Treatment. Spider veins smaller than 3mm in diameter can be treated with laser “surgery”. Bursts of laser energy are directed at the veins, causing them to slowly fade and disappear. Laser treatment is non-invasive, but may cause minor discomfort in the form of a burning sensation. Two to five sessions are generally required to permanently remove spider veins.
Most patients tolerate laser treatment well, but a topical anesthetic can be applied if needed. Normal activities can be resumed immediately.