What are spider veins?
Spider veins are the small purple, blue, or red veins that show up in clusters on the surface of the skin. From far away they can look like a bruise. They most commonly appear on the face or the legs. The name comes from their appearance: they look a bit like a spiderweb branching out over your skin. Spider veins are incredibly common, and occur in 60% of adults.
Varicose veins vs. spider veins
Spider veins are different from varicose veins. Varicose veins are the ropy, bulging veins that you may see sticking out of the skin. Varicose veins may feel achy or tender, whereas spider veins are painless. Varicose veins generally appear only on the legs.
What causes spider veins?
Like varicose veins, spider veins can be caused by increased pressure in the veins of the leg. Veins bring blood back to your heart, and use a series of valves to keep the blood flowing in one direction. When these valves don’t work well the blood tends to collect in the veins, increasing the pressure, and causing the veins to bulge. Even if you don’t have visible varicose veins, spider veins may occur as a result of this increased pressure.
Sun damage is a major cause of spider veins on the face, and trauma can cause them as well. I often see spider veins develop after surgery, e.g. after a facelift, or removing a skin cancer.
Can you prevent spider veins?
Wearing sunscreen can help prevent spider veins on the face. For the legs, avoiding situations that increase pressure in the leg veins may be helpful. If you spend much of your day standing, wearing compression socks to help prevent blood from pooling will help.
Many women develop varicose or spider veins during pregnancy, when the growing baby puts pressure on the large veins that bring blood back to the heart. Wearing compression socks during pregnancy is helpful, even if you don’t spend a lot of time on your feet. The good news is often these spider veins resolve after the baby is born.
Who treats spider veins?
Spider veins are often treated by plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and vein specialists. If you have the larger, ropy varicose veins, those should be treated by a vein specialist first. Otherwise the spider veins will just come back.
What to expect during treatment of spider veins
Spider veins are treated two different ways: sclerotherapy and laser. Sclerotherapy injects a medication, known as a sclerant, directly into the spider vein. This causes the vein to scar shut, making it disappear. Laser treatment uses laser energy to achieve the same result.
Spider veins on the face are primarily treated with laser. During the treatment you will have cold gel applied to your face to protect your skin and conduct the energy of the laser. The treatment may feel like a flash of heat or a rubber band snap, depending on the type of laser used.
I prefer sclerotherapy on the legs, unless the spider veins are too small to inject. The higher pressure in the vessels means sclerotherapy is generally more effective than laser in this area. The medication is injected with a tiny needle. You’ll feel a little pinch as the needle goes in, and sometimes a slight burning sensation as the medication is injected.
After your treatment
For the first few days after your vein treatment you’ll want to avoid situations that cause your blood vessels to dilate, as this will put more pressure on the spider veins, and possibly cause them to open back up. Common causes of vasodilation include sitting in a hot bath or hot tub, exercise, and for facial veins, alcohol. Wearing compression stockings isn’t strictly necessary after injection of spider veins on the leg, but you may find it more comfortable.
Mild swelling and itching are common after treatment of spider veins. You may notice a hive-like reaction over the treatment area that lasts a few hours. Bruising is also common, as the blood inside the spider vein is broken down by your body. On the face bruising usually fades in a week or two. But on the legs it can take several weeks or even a few months for your body to completely break down the brown pigment, called hemosiderin. A different type of laser treatment can speed this process along.
How many treatments will you need?
A single treatment will improve the appearance of spider veins significantly on both the face and legs, but most patients will need a second session to clean up any little spider veins that are left.
Spider veins do tend to recur, so don’t be surprised if you need a repeat treatment a few years down the road.
What are the risks of treating spider veins?
For both injection and laser treatment, the biggest risk is leaving a scar. If the sclerosing medication is injected into the tissue instead of the vein, it can cause a small scab that leaves a scar. For facial veins, if too much laser energy is applied to a single area at one time, it can also cause a scab. This risk is low, and if a scar does develop, it’s usually fairly small.
Cost of treating spider veins
The cost of treating spider veins depends on how much treatment time is needed. Some offices may have a larger up-front cost, but include a touch up session in that cost. On average, you can expect to spend $300-500 to clear up your spider veins.
Where do I start?
If you’re ready to banish those spider veins, give us a call at (440) 974-8577 to set up your treatment. We can also recommend a good vein specialist if you have varicose veins.