Although spider veins – named because the bluish-purple vessels form web-like patterns under the skin – are usually harmless, they can sometimes cause discomfort or be a symptom of poor circulation, so it’s wise to get them checked out. Vascular surgeon Dr Imran Nawaz of The Vein Centre tells us more about these unsightly visitors.
What are the main causes of spider veins?
Some cases are related to what we call underlying venous incompetence, or valve failure, but there are others that occur without demonstrating symptoms. Spider veins have similar risk factors to varicose veins – they tend to be more common in women, especially during and after pregnancy, and in those who have careers that involve prolonged standing; they can also be passed down genetically.
When should they be looked at?
Usually, spider veins are a cosmetic issue, and aren’t primarily the cause of any serious health problems, so I often see patients who come in wanting to simply improve their appearance. Some people, however, do experience aches around where the spider veins are, and this, of course, can also be a reason for treatment.
Can superficial spider veins turn into larger, truncal varicose veins if left untreated?
No, spider veins can never become truncal varicose veins – so patients should not be frightened into getting treatment for this reason alone! The most common reason for treating spider veins is cosmetic; far less commonly, it’s to relieve discomfort in the area where these veins are.
The general term “varicose veins” describes dilated and tortuous veins of any size that result from a failure of the valves within them. When the deeper superficial veins or their tributaries are affected, these appear as large or truncal varicose veins. When tiny surface capillaries are affected, these become spider veins. Intermediate-sized varicose veins, which appear greenish and fairly large, but not bulging and rope-like, are referred to as reticular veins.
Two or even all three of these types of varicose vein can co-exist at the same time in the same leg, so treatment could possibly involve a variety of different methods that are used to tackle veins of different sizes.
What are the different treatment methods for spider veins?
Spider veins can be treated either with injection sclerotherapy or with transcutaneous laser treatment. Both methods have pros and cons, and not all spider veins can be treated exclusively with one method or the other. Often, the best results come from using both methods.
Can you treat spider veins on the rest of the body, or on the face?
Yes. In fact, we frequently treat spider veins on the face, and sometimes on other parts of the body, too.
Can you treat spider veins in pregnant women?
We don’t recommend treatment during pregnancy. In my opinion, if the treatment is just for cosmetic reasons, the risk of treatment overrides the benefits. Also, spider veins may improve spontaneously after pregnancy, so it’s better to wait a few weeks after delivery before making a decision.
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