You have probably heard of varicose veins, but what about spider veins? Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they’re smaller. While varicose veins are large, swollen and raised blood vessels that “twist” under the skin and are very visible, spider veins are small red, blue or purple veins and capillaries that twist very close to the skin’s surface and can occur anywhere. While varicose veins most often appear on the legs, spider veins are particularly common on the nose, cheeks and chin.
What causes spider veins?
Spider veins can happen because of:
- Gender (women develop spider veins most frequently)
- Age (the older you get, the more likely it is that you’ll develop spider veins
- Incessant standing (such as when you have a job that requires a lot of standing like factory work or nursing)
- Being overweight
- Being pregnant
- Hormonal fluctuations that can occur during menopause, puberty or pregnancy
- Using birth control pills
- Anything that causes increased pressure to the abdomen including constipation (and related straining), wearing external “compression” garments like girdles, or tumors
- Ultraviolet ray exposure and trauma or injury to the skin where the spider veins occur
Spider veins can also occur as a result of the following conditions:
- Port wine stain “birthmarks” (naevus flammeus)
- Klippel–Trénaunay–Weber syndrome
- Maffucci’s syndrome
- Sturge-Weber syndrome
- Cushing’s syndrome
What are the symptoms of spider veins?
There are often no symptoms with spider veins other than the very visible appearance of thin red, blue or purple “spidery veins” under the skin’s surface; visibility of the discoloration is usually apparent and can cause emotional distress, although physical symptoms are usually minimal.
That said, if you have spider veins, you may experience unpleasant sensations from the condition, like achiness, burning or itching in the affected area.
How to treat spider veins
Wear support stockings: Spider veins will generally not spontaneously disappear except in some cases for pregnant women (see below), but you can make the achiness and discomfort that often occur with spider veins better if you wear support stockings when you must be on your feet a lot.
Opt for removal: If spider veins are painful or their appearance really bothers you, you can opt to have them removed. There are two accepted methods for removal:
1. Sclerotherapy: With this treatment, a medication that will “schlerose” or harden and close off the spider veins and eventually make them fade over time is injected into the veins; the veins scar, harden, and close off; although they might not entirely disappear, they do become light enough that they are very difficult to see. More than one treatment may be needed with sclerosing medications in order to have spider veins fully disappear. Spider veins may also reappear after this procedure, in which case treatment should be repeated.
2. Laser therapy: A newer alternative to sclerotherapy is laser therapy. Laser therapy is not for everyone because in general, it is only suitable for light-skinned people. However, it works on the same principle as sclerotherapy in the destruction of spider veins. With this, the laser targets the spider veins and damages them. They ultimately harden up so that they close up, shrink, and become “invisible” or nearly so.
Do results last?
Most often, sclerotherapy and laser therapy offer good long-term treatments that permanently shrink the spider veins; they become invisible or nearly so as a result. However, it’s important to be aware that new spider veins can appear even once old ones have been removed. The best “treatment” for spider veins is to minimize their chances of appearing or reappearing by wearing sunscreen, avoiding excessive weight gain, and wearing support or compression stockings.
Can spider veins disappear?
Spider veins will generally only disappear (and only in some cases) for pregnant women. Known as nevi, these spider veins are directly related to the pregnancy and most often appear in the upper arms, face, neck and chest. When the pregnancy ends, so, too, do most pregnancy related ailments, including spider veins. For just about everyone else, however, spider veins are there to stay unless they are treated.