Spider Veins Overview

What are spider veins?

Spider veins are unhealthy blue, red, or purple blood vessels visible just beneath the skin’s surface, usually on the lower extremities of the body. They’re often found in dense web-like clusters that expand outwards and resemble spider webs (hence the name). The official term for spider veins is telangiactasias, and they’re caused by an underlying circulatory disorder called chronic venous insufficiency.

What’s the root cause of spider veins?

Spider veins are caused by poor blood circulation in the leg veins due to an underlying circulatory disorder called chronic venous insufficiency.

To understand venous insufficiency and spider veins, you must understand how leg veins should function. Healthy leg veins carry blood from different parts of the body to the heart, often going against the force of gravity, especially when blood flows upwards from the lower extremities. The veins located deep within the body carry most of the blood, and the superficial leg veins closer to the skin carry a smaller volume of blood.

Upward blood circulation against the force of gravity is facilitated by one-way doors called valves — they allow blood to flow towards the heart against gravitational force but prevent it from flowing backward. However, the valves can malfunction due to various underlying factors, making the blood flow back and accumulate in the leg veins. The increased pressure on the vein walls leads to the formation of spider veins.

The relationship between spider veins and underlying venous insufficiency is like that of stains on walls and the underlying leaking pipes. Venous insufficiency is the “leaky pipe” that leads to spider veins, i.e., the “stains on the walls.”

What are the risk factors for spider veins?

  • Age: The risk of spider veins increases with age, so they’re mostly found in adults.
  • Sex: The risk of spider veins increases with higher estrogen levels, so they’re more common in women than in men.
  • Genetics: Family history and genetic predisposition are the leading risk factors for spider veins. If your mother and father have a history of spider veins, there’s a 90% chance you’ll eventually show symptoms of vein disease.
  • Others: Other risk factors for spider veins include pregnancy, hormone therapy, birth control pills, a history of blood clots, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, or a job that involves extended periods of sitting or standing still.

What are the symptoms of spider veins?

In and of themselves, spider veins cause few symptoms beyond looking hideous, which, in turn, may lead to self-consciousness and social anxiety.

However, the underlying chronic venous insufficiency may cause the following symptoms: leg heaviness, restless leg syndrome, frequent leg cramps, throbbing leg veins, burning sensations, itching, tingling, and aching sensations. If left untreated, chronic venous insufficiency eventually leads to the following complications: skin color changes, leg ulcers that don’t heal, and deep vein thrombosis.

Do spider veins necessitate treatment?

Unless you experience discomfort or severe symptoms, you don’t have to pursue spider vein treatment. However, if you want to remove spider veins for aesthetic purposes, your vein doctor in NYC may recommend sclerotherapy treatments.

What are the best spider vein treatments?

The spider veins don’t necessitate treatment because they cause few symptoms other than self-consciousness and poor cosmetic appearance. However, it’s important to seek diagnosis and treatment for the underlying chronic venous insufficiency, which can eventually lead to severe complications, like leg ulcers and deep vein thrombosis. Furthermore, the underlying vein disease must be treated before removing the spider veins — otherwise, the spider veins will inevitably return.

  • Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is a safe, effective, and in-office procedure with no downtime. Your NY vein doctor will inject a medication into the spider veins to fuse their vein walls, turning them into hardened scar tissues eventually absorbed by the body.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation: Endovenous radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive vein treatment for the underlying chronic venous insufficiency. It involves using thermal energy to seal the diseased vein and restore effective blood circulation to the heart. The procedure doesn’t involve any downtime, and it causes minimal post-treatment discomfort or bruising.
  • Endovenous Laser Ablation: Endovenous laser ablation is similar to radiofrequency ablation. The only difference is that it’s done with laser energy instead of thermal energy, which may cause a little more post-treatment discomfort and bruising. But it’s just as effective at treating vein disease.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser therapy is a purely cosmetic treatment that diminishes the appearance of the smallest spider veins. It’s often recommended as an alternative to sclerotherapy, but it’s far less effective. Furthermore, laser therapy may not be suitable for certain skin types, and it doesn’t treat underlying chronic venous insufficiency or its symptoms.
  • Daily Exercise: You can’t treat spider veins with daily exercise, but you can certainly alleviate the symptoms. Cardiovascular activities like running, swimming, and cycling improve blood circulation and make your calf muscles pump blood upwards toward the heart, reducing the discomfort caused by vein disease. You should also avoid sitting or standing still for long periods, and you should elevate your leg above your heart’s level while sitting. These methods will reduce your symptoms, but you’ll still need vein treatment in NYC to remove the existing spider veins. 
  • Compression Stockings: These are skin-tight garments that apply pressure on your leg veins, pushing the accumulated blood upwards towards the heart. Compression stockings don’t remove the spider veins, but they temporarily alleviate the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, such as leg heaviness and restless legs. You must find compression stockings for your specific size and measurements.