If you've got spider veins (small blue or red veins that appear just beneath the surface of the skin), welcome to a large and typically frustrated club. More than half of the population has or will have spider veins or their larger cousins, varicose veins, at some point in their lives. Of the two, spider veins are much more common.
Usually, spider veins are just a cosmetic concern. They might make you feel self-conscious, but there's no medical issue to worry about. In rare cases, the veins can point to a problem with blood flow deeper in the body. Occasionally, the veins will cause some discomfort, such as itching or burning in the legs.
Even if your spider veins aren't causing you physical discomfort and aren't a sign of a deeper problem, you might not want to live with them. Fortunately, treatments are available to help you say goodbye to problem veins for good.
Before looking at the treatment options for spider veins, it helps to have an understanding of where the veins come from and why some people get them. Usually, something called venous insufficiency is behind problem veins, both spider and varicose.
With venous insufficiency, your veins don't pump the blood up to the heart as well as they could. Some blood flows back down, backing up in the legs. The backup of blood makes the veins visible (in the case of spider veins) or enlarges them (in the case of varicose veins).
Some people are just more prone to problem veins than others because of hormone levels, genes, and lifestyle habits. In some cases, the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop problem veins can be reversed or corrected, in other cases, the risk factors are beyond the person's control.
Two treatments are usually recommended for spider veins. The first treatment uses lasers to heat up the veins, ultimately destroying them. Laser vein therapy usually causes the unwanted veins to disappear about a week after the treatment. While some people might only need a single treatment session to get the results they want, many need as many as four sessions to fully treat their spider veins.
The other common treatment for spider veins is sclerotherapy. While a laser treatment destroys visible veins with the energy from a laser beam, sclerotherapy uses a chemical solution. The solution is injected into the veins, causing them to collapse. Over the course of a few weeks, the veins eventually fade away.
While some people see a noticeable improvement with just laser treatments or just sclerotherapy, a few get the best results when they combine the two procedures.
Once the spider veins are treated and gone, they won't return. That doesn't mean that new veins won't develop in other areas of the legs or on the face, however.
Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent spider veins from returning or to reduce the risk of them getting worse.
One of the best things you can do to prevent spider veins is to wear sunscreen daily. Exposure to the sun's UV rays can make the veins worse. Wearing sunscreen is particularly important if you are prone to developing the veins on your face.
Another thing you can do is to wear compression stockings on your legs to keep spider veins from getting worse or returning. After either a laser treatment or sclerotherapy, your surgeon is likely to recommend wearing compression stockings to help the results appear more quickly.
Compression stockings won't get rid of existing veins, but because they put an upward pressure on the legs, they can help to improve blood flow and keep blood from pooling in the veins.
Other things you can do to keep spider veins from coming back or to keep them from getting worse include getting enough exercise, losing weight if you're overweight, avoiding sitting or standing in one place for long periods and elevating the legs when you can to help blood flow back to the heart.
At the Masri Clinic for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, Dr. Haitham Masri and Dr. Fatina Masri each have more than two decades of experience performing plastic surgery and non-surgical procedures. Masri Clinic offers laser treatments for spider veins as well as sclerotherapy to patients at practice locations in Birmingham and Dearborn, Michigan. To schedule a consultation with the Masri Clinic and learn more about what you can do about spider veins, call (866) 487-3223.