Surveys show that 40 to 50 percent of men and 50 to 55 percent of women have spider veins, so this is a very common problem.
The term "spider veins" was coined because of their appearance, which is reminiscent of spider webs. Telangiectasia or venulectasias (spider veins) are capillaries, thin vessels connected directly into the larger venous system. These tiny, tangled blood vessels occur under the skin's surface and are clearly visible as purple, blue or red lines. These veins may be isolated or associated with "feeder" veins or larger varicose veins. (Spider veins are different from varicose veins, which bulge above the surface of the skin and may require medical treatment.)
While spider veins can be visible over large portions of skin, they are just a cosmetic problem. These veins most often occur on the thighs, calves, ankles, cheeks and nose. Spider veins can be caused by the following:
• Force of gravity, body weight pressure and pumping blood from the lower body up to the heart
• Age (valves weaken with age)
• Long periods of immobility (including standing)
• Hormones (including puberty, pregnancy and menopause, birth control pills)
• Pregnancy (increased blood in the body can cause veins to enlarge and increased uterus size puts pressure on veins)
• Family history
• Running or other high impact activities
• Blockage by bad valves in the deep system of veins
• Crossing legs
• Sun exposure
Although spider veins are primarily a cosmetic problem, they can create discomfort in the legs. There are often no symptoms from spider veins, but they can cause an itching or burning sensation. Infrequently, these veins can be blood backing up deeper under the skin in which case the symptoms would be the same as having varicose veins.
Preventing Spider Veins
There are several steps you can take to help prevent spider veins:
• Walk every 15 minutes during the day
• Exercise your calf muscles to pump blood out of your legs - flex and extend your ankles at least 15 times every 30 minutes
• Elevate your legs when resting
• Eat a high fiber, low-salt diet (reduces constipation and swelling)
• Avoid wearing high heels for extended periods of time
• Wear compression hose or stockings
• Wear sunscreen
Treatment for Spider Veins
There are several types of treatments for spider veins from completely non-invasive to surgical. Some options include:
• Lifestyle changes such as alterations to diet and exercise routine
• Products to help conceal the appearance of broken capillaries
- NV Perricone produces an anti-spider vein treatment intended to help reduce the appearance of spider veins and broken capillaries
- Dermablend products intended to help hide spider veins
• Compression stockings
- Support pantyhose, which offer the least amount of pressure and provide pressure all over the leg rather than concentrated in certain locations
- Gradient compression hose, which give a little more pressure and are sold in drug stores and medical supply stores
- Prescription gradient compression hose, which offer the largest amount of pressure but must be fitted by someone specifically trained
• Sclerotherapy (SKLER-o-ther-a-pee) is the most common treatment of spider veins. For this highly effective procedure, a physician injects a chemical chemical into the vein, causing the vein walls to swell, stick together and shut. The result is that the blood flow is stopped, causing the vein to turn into scar tissue. Several weeks later, the vein fades. Treatments may need to be done more than once. This procedure can be done in a physician's office without anesthesia. Normal activity can be resumed immediately after treatment. Gradient compression stockings may be worn after sclerotherapy to decrease swelling and aid healing.
• Surface laser treatments, such as XEO, use a very strong burst of light sent through the skin into the vein making the vein fade and disappear. The treatments generally last 15 - 20 minutes. Two to five treatments are normally required to remove these veins in the legs. Limited activity is recommended for the first 24 hours following treatment. It is best not to exercise for the following week. After treatment, support hose should be worn for best results. Laser treatments are not safe for all skin types and colors, so this is not an option for everyone. This is the treatment of choice currently as it causes let discomfort than sclerotherapy.
Because there are several options for treatment of spider veins, it is wise to consult with a qualified professional to determine the best course of action for you.