You've all heard of and probably have seen – in family or friends if not yourself – varicose veins. They're easy to spot, because they're at least 2.54mm in width, and they can be as wide as 19mm. Most people have also heard of spider veins, the smaller, more red-coloured lines that tend to appear on the backs of legs, the neck and face, and in other areas.
But when we tell new patients at The Vein Institute that the unsightly blue line on their leg or thigh is a reticular vein, this information tends to be received with quizzical looks. This article explains what reticular veins are, and how they are treated.
What are reticular veins?
Smaller than varicose veins – usually no more than 2mm in size – reticular veins also do not protrude above the skin the way that varicose veins do. Blue or purple in colour (because of the deoxygenated blood that fills them), they are most commonly found on the inner thigh, the backs of knees, or on the legs and ankles. They may not be quite as noticeable as the larger varicose veins, but their appearance nonetheless deters many people from wearing shorts, bathing suits, skirts, or other clothing that reveals areas of the skin where they are visible.
Reticular veins can also produce symptoms such as pain and discomfort in the areas surrounding them. More important, they can serve as "feeder veins" for clumps of spider veins, serving as the source of excess blood that fills them.
What can be done about reticular veins?
Fortunately, removal of reticular veins is now almost as much of a routine procedure as the removal of varicose veins. As an "added plus," removal of reticular veins can often help to eliminate "downstream" spider veins as well.
Reticular veins can be effectively treated using called ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, during which the physician inserts a tiny catheter into the vein and then injects a chemical irritant – either a liquid or a foam – that makes the walls of the vein stick to each other, causing the entire vein to collapse. Reticular veins can also be treated using a laser applied to the surface of the skin. Lasers emit a specific frequency of light that heats up and damages the vein without injuring nearby tissues.
So if you hadn't heard of reticular veins before, now you know all about them. Like varicose veins and spider veins, they are just one more obstacle that prevents millions of people from enjoying healthy, attractive legs. And fortunately, like varicose veins and spider veins, you don't have to "live with them" any more. Give us a call at The Vein Institute, and we'll tell you more.