Spider veins are more than a cosmetic nuisance — they’re a sign your veins aren’t working properly.

Spider veins — those thin red and purple lines that appear on the legs, ankle, and face — are rarely painful. Unlike varicose veins, which are bigger, bulging, and tend to cause more discomfort, spider veins are typically treated for cosmetic reasons.

Yet spider veins need to be taken seriously. Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are a warning sign that there may be an underlying malfunction in your venous system. Similar to varicose veins, spider veins develop when blood pools in the vein due to weakened valves. Unable to pump blood back to the heart, these tiny valves allow blood to collect within the vein wall, eventually stretching it to the point where a spider vein becomes visible. 

Far from a being merely unsightly, spider veins indicate a deeper problem within your veins that should be evaluated and treated.

Don’t Ignore Spider Veins

Anytime blood flow is restricted in your veins, it could lead to serious medical conditions. Blood clots, cellulitis (a bacterial skin infection), and even skin ulcers can result from clogged and damaged veins. Even if spider veins don’t cause discomfort, those tangled webs of veins indicate your veins aren’t working as well as they should.

Spider veins are frequently coupled with larger reticular veins. While spider veins are typically one millimeter in diameter, reticular veins are between 1 to 3 millimeters in diameter. If the reticular vein feeds into the spider vein, both veins must be treated. 

In most cases, spider veins don’t cause noticeable symptoms; however, some people report itching, burning, and bleeding related to spider veins. Risk factors for spider veins are similar to those of varicose veins: heredity, obesity, and jobs that require long hours sitting or standing. Women develop spider veins and varicose veins more often than men due to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and menopause. 

Spider veins may also be caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, as the harsh rays damage the collagen and blood vessels just below the skin’s surface. Age is another risk factor for spider veins. As we grow older, the vein valves lose elasticity and strength, which contributes to the formation of spider veins and varicose veins.

Treating Spider Veins

Your vein specialist will first examine your spider veins and possibly perform an ultrasound to get a view of blood movement in your veins. Non-surgical treatment options begin with compression stockings. By gently squeezing the leg veins, these garments encourage proper blood flow and may reduce any painful symptoms. Compression stockings come in different pressurized grades, with the strongest pressure available by a doctor’s prescription. Lower-grade stockings can be purchased in a drugstore. You can choose from several styles, such as knee- or thigh-high stockings.

Other at-home remedies range from elevating your legs whenever possible to avoiding hot temperatures in the shower or bath. (Heat dilates veins, leading to overflow of blood.) But perhaps the best way to prevent or alleviate the discomfort of spider veins and varicose veins is by staying active. A regular exercise program of walking or biking, or simply taking frequent walks if you sit or stand for long periods, helps maintain good circulation in the veins and reduces the chances of developing spider veins.

If you decide on surgical treatments, you have several minimally invasive options from which to choose. For spider veins, surgical procedures may include:

  • Sclerotherapy. In this method, a FDA-approved substance is injected into the vein. This irritates the vein wall, causing it to eventually close up. 
  • Surface Laser Treatment. Recommended for spider veins and small varicose veins, surface laser treatments involve a laser beam passed over the damaged vein. The laser collapses the vein, and the spider vein gradually disappears.

After these treatments, you’ll be asked to wear compression stockings. You may need more than one procedure to eliminate all spider veins. Recovery time is brief, with few restrictions. You can return to normal activities within a day.

Take Care of Your Spider Veins

Healthy veins are vital for your overall well-being. If you suffer from the pain of varicose veins or the unsightly appearance of spider veins, the specialists at VEINatlanta are ready to help you with the latest treatments. Contact us today for an appointment.