Spider Vein Causes & Treatment

Group of friends sitting and having fun on the pier by the lake on sunset.Only legs are visible.Although spider veins do not pose health risks, they can cause significant discomfort, particularly in the legs after prolonged standing. The most common venous ailment, spider veins, are small, thin, dilated veins that lie close to the surface of the skin. These broken capillaries (properly named telangiectasias) are small red, blue, or purple web-like veins (less than 2mm in diameter, flat or raised) on the surface of the skin.

Primary factors contributing to the development of spider veins include:

  • Heredity: Most (up to 90%) of spider vein patients have a family history of them.1
  • Pregnancy: The combination of increased blood pulsing through an expectant mother’s body with the increasing weight of the fetus leads to greater pressure on the leg veins during pregnancy. This double whammy can result in spider veins that sometimes disappear after pregnancy but may become permanent.
  • Hormones: The estrogen contained in both hormonal oral contraceptives and hormonal menopause treatments may weaken the valves of the leg veins, increasing the risk of spider veins.
  • Weight gain: As with pregnancy, increased weight leads to more pressure placed on the veins of the legs.2
  • Prolonged standing or sitting: The longer a person sits or stands, the harder the legs veins must work to pump blood back towards the heart. As a result, the blood may pool in the legs, causing spider veins.
  • Being female: spider veins typically occur more frequently in women.3

While not harmful, spider veins are generally felt to be unsightly, and cause many people to be self-conscious about them. Luckily the past few years have seen great strides in vein treatment technology and procedures. While spider veins previously could only be treated surgically, today, minimally invasive treatments allow for fast, virtually pain-free treatments, requiring minimal recovery time.

Following a consultation with a vein specialist that will evaluate the cause(s) and severity of your spider veins, as well as your insurance coverage, you may be a candidate for the most common spider vein treatment technique, called sclerotherapy. During this outpatient procedure, a very small needle injects a special chemical medication to seal off damaged veins, detouring the blood to other veins nearby. The afflicted veins collapse in response and are reabsorbed by the body, making the surface veins no longer visible. You may require one or more sclerotherapy sessions, depending upon the type and number of veins being treated.

Following sclerotherapy for spider veins, the leg must be supported in order to allow the vein walls to stick together, by way of compression bandages or graduated support stockings. These stockings look just like tall socks and give no discomfort. There is no exercise for 1 week after the procedure. After that, exercise becomes an important part of the healing process. A 20-minute walk or bike ride twice a day is best for the healing process.

You should not experience any reoccurrence of symptoms in veins that have been treated with sclerotherapy—so you and your legs can get back to living your best lives together!

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Resources

  1. https://academic.oup.com/asj/article/35/7/NP221/2589167
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1078588408000464
  3. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circulationaha.113.008331