It may be distressing to find the clusters of tiny red and bluish lines on your legs. But they shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Known as spider veins, even young, healthy and fit people can get them, they’re more common than you probably think. If these veins are so common, do they need to be treated or will they go away on their own? Below are some tips for management, and when to seek treatment.
What are spider veins?
Also known as Telangiectasia, spider veins don’t produce symptoms such as pain, itching or swelling. They can appear on all areas of the body, including legs, behind the knees and on the face.
However, these veins shouldn’t be mistaken for varicose veins – the twisted, dilated veins that can become painful, uncomfortable and even dangerous if left untreated. Varicose veins also tend to make an appearance when you’re older, have a history of obesity or during pregnancy.
Unsure which type of vein condition you have? Try our Vein Self-Assessment Tool, or read: Varicose Veins vs Spider Veins – Recognising the difference.
Although they’re quite different, spider veins and varicose veins share a common underlying cause: a condition called venous insufficiency. Anytime there’s increased pressure on your blood vessels, they have to work extra hard to move blood through your circulatory system.
What are the causes?
To better understand spider veins, it’s useful to know how the circulatory system functions. Arteries carry blood away from the heart and veins return it back. To prevent blood from flowing backward, veins have a one-way valve system that ensures blood flows in one direction only.
If for some reasons the valves in the legs become damaged or impaired, blood starts flowing in the opposite direction (a condition called reflux) or it can pool inside the vein. If the varicosity is mild, the vein can become slightly enlarged and branch out, leading to spider veins.
Some risk factors for spider veins the legs include:
- Steroid use
- Vigorous exercise
- Standing for long periods of time
The cause of spider veins on the face is a little different. These are typically the result of tiny blood vessels bursting.
Below are some common causes of spider veins on the face:
- Excessive exposure to sun or wind
- Frequent alcohol consumption
- Rosacea-related broken capillaries
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Birth control hormones or pregnancy
- Traumatic damage to the skin
Will spider veins go away?
Very rarely, spider veins may fade on their own without any intervention. But in most cases, once you’ve developed them, they will need to be removed by a medical professional if you want them gone permanently.
Keep in mind that although you may find them unattractive, spider veins are not harmful. You can try to live with them or cover them up with concealer if they really bother you. If you notice your veins getting worse, there is any pan, or you experience leg aches, it’s a good idea to have them examined by your doctor or Phlebologist.
Spider veins minimally-invasive treatments
For spider veins on the legs, sclerotherapy is the most common non-surgical treatment. During the procedure, your doctor injects the veins with a special pharmaceutical solution (sclerosing agent) that creates scarring in the vein, causing it to close. Blood is then rerouted through other healthier veins.
After a few weeks, the treated spider vein gradually fades and disappears. Treatment is usually effective the first time around, although in some cases it may need to be repeated.
The biggest advantage of sclerotherapy is that it does not require general anesthesia. It’s a relatively painless procedure that can be performed at your doctor’s office. Side minor side-effects can include swelling, itching and temporary discolouration in the treated area.
Spider veins on the face can be treated with laser or IPL (intense pulsed light). These devices emit light in various spectrums and frequencies, targeting red pigment in the blood and causing the veins to collapse and shrink.
For a non-surgical option, wearing medical-grade compression stockings will help encourage healthy blood flow and could assist in reducing the severity of vein issues.
Read more: Treating Varicose Veins vs Treating Spider Veins.
Seek expert advice
The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;
- Walk-in walk-out treatment
- 98% success rate
- Extremely effective
- Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
- No general anaesthetic
- Medicare rebates apply
- No downtime or time away from work