What are spider veins?
Spider veins are caused by the widening (dilation) of a small group of veins near
the skin's surface. They often occur on the face and legs. They look like red or purple
sunbursts or web patterns. They are more common in women.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are swollen or enlarged veins. They most often appear on the thighs,
the backs and fronts of the calves, or near the ankles and feet. The veins have enlarged
because of a weakening or damage in the vein valves. They are found deeper in the
skin than spider veins. They may be raised, bulging, or twisted. They are often blue,
red, or flesh colored. If you have varicose veins, your legs may feel tired, heavy,
or achy after sitting or standing for a long time. They may feel better when you put
your legs up.
Varicose veins can be serious because they may be painful. They may also be linked with
health problems such as:
Phlebitis. This is inflammation of the vein.
Thromboses. This occurs when blood clots form in the enlarged vein.
Venous stasis ulcers. An ulcer is formed when there isn't normal drainage in the enlarged vein.
The exact causes for varicose and spider veins are unknown. But pregnancy, heredity,
obesity, standing for a long time, older age, heavy lifting, and hormonal changes
may all be causes.
Treatment for spider and varicose veins
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. It may include:
Compression therapy. Wearing compression stockings can help ease symptoms.
Sclerotherapy. A concentrated saline or specially-developed solution is injected into the spider
or small varicose vein. The solution irritates the inside of the vein. Over time the
vein will collapse and fade. Healthier blood vessels located nearby absorb the blood
flow of the collapsed vein.
Ambulatory phlebectomy. The vein is removed using tiny holes (punctures) or cuts (incisions) along the path
of the enlarged vein. Through these tiny holes, the surgeon uses a surgical hook to
remove the varicose vein.
Electrodesiccation. The veins are sealed using an electrical current.
Laser surgery and intense pulsed light therapy. Abnormal veins are destroyed by high-intensity laser beams or intense pulsating light.
Surgical ligation and stripping. The surgeon makes an incision in the skin and removes or ties off the blood vessel.
This procedure is done for severe cases of varicose veins.
Intravascular laser or radiofrequency ablation. A laser fiber or radiofrequency catheter is put into the abnormal vein. The vein is
then sealed shut by thermal energy.
Possible complications of treatment for spider or varicose veins
Possible complications include:
Changes in skin color. Brownish splotches near the treated area may appear, and may take several months (or
even up to a year) to fade.
Allergic reaction and scarring. Allergic reactions from the injected chemical solution, as well as skin injury, wounds,
and lasting (permanent) scarring, may result.
Telangiectatic matting. This reaction involves the appearance of fine, reddish blood vessels near the treated
area. Treatment for this condition may require further injections.
Blood clots. Treatment could cause blood clots in the veins.
Who might have sclerotherapy?
Women and men of any age may be candidates for sclerotherapy, but most are 30 to 60
years old. Spider veins are more common in women. Men do have spider veins. But they
often don't think they're a cosmetic problem because the veins are often hidden by
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should postpone sclerotherapy treatment. It's not
known how sclerosing solutions may affect breastmilk.
Before the procedure
The surgery may be done in any of these places:
You may be given local anesthesia with IV (intravenous) sedation. You may have epidural
or spinal anesthesia. Or you may have general anesthesia.
After the procedure
A compression bandage may be put on the treated area. You may be advised to wear support
stockings for several days or longer.