Ever looked down and noticed reddish or bluish clumps of veins under your skin, likely in your legs or face? They’re called spider veins, and it’s important to know how they’re caused and what to do about them.
Where do they come from?
Spider veins occur when small veins under the skins get dilated and tortuous, resulting in a spiderweb or treelike appearance. The medical term for them is telangiectasia. More common in females, particularly during pregnancy, veins become dilated due to high pressure coming from the larger veins – which causes dilation of the smaller veins.
While some people have a genetic predisposition toward developing these veins, they are more common in people who spend much of their times standing (such as physicians, bank tellers, hair stylists, etc.). Spider veins are often found in athletes as well, particularly body builders due to their frequent heavy weight lifting.
Although spider veins are usually 2mm or less diameter, they are not a benign condition as they invariably involve larger veins called varicose veins. Since they may indicate a deeper problem, they should not be ignored and should be discussed with a medical professional.
What should you do?
The first, essential step is evaluation by a board-certified physician specialized in vein treatment; visit the American Vein and Lymphatic Society (www.phlebology.org) to find the closest vein specialist). Before treating spider veins, an ultrasound of the adjacent bigger veins is necessary to ensure they are not affected. If a patient has significant problems with the large veins (varicose veins), any treatment will only be temporary as the spider veins will soon reappear.
The most common therapy for spider veins and smaller varicose veins is a minimally invasive treatment called sclerotherapy, which involves the injection of an irritant (sclerosant) directly into the affected vein or a lymph vessel. This irritation results in swelling, which stops the flow of blood or lymphatic fluid, making the vessel shrink. Veins typically respond in three to six weeks depending on their size, and larger veins may take three to four months.
Regardless of whether people are in one of the at-risk categories mentioned above, there are ways to make spider veins less likely. These include regular exercise and weight control; avoiding placing too much pressure on the lower body parts; elevating legs while resting and not crossing them when sitting; and avoiding long periods of standing.
There are also natural products and oral medications that can reduce the appearance of spider veins. Quite a few claims of success can be found, but the most commonly used herbs include grape seed extract, bilberry and horse chestnut. The FDA also recently approved Diosmin (a type of plant chemical found mainly in citrus fruits) for reducing the symptoms of varicose veins; it’s in micronized purified form, and tablets are available with a prescription.
There are many causes of spider veins, including genetics, environment and lifestyle. It’s key to find a physician with the knowledge and experience to treat each individual patient and their unique needs.
If you questions, or would like to schedule a consultation, contact us today.