Millions of men and women are bothered by spider veinsóthose small, unsightly clusters of red, blue, or purple veins that usually appear on the thighs, calves and ankles and occasionally on the face. An estimated fifty percent of the adult female population and fifteen to twenty percent of men share this cosmetic problem.
Spider veins are small, thin capillaries that lie close to the surface of the skin. They are connected to a larger venous system, though they are not an essential part of it since they do not actually carry blood to the heart.
Many factors can contribute to the development of spider veins, including:
chronic sun exposure
activities that demand prolonged standing or sitting
certain medications, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement medication
Spider veins form when excess blood backs up in the blood stream. The excess blood creates pressure. The body releases the pressure by creating new veins on the skinís surface.
The primary problem with spider veins is their unsightly appearance, but they can also cause aching, swelling, burning and night cramps in legs.
Spider veins and varicose veins are often lumped together, but they are actually very different conditions. Varicose veins are caused by faulty valves in the venous system, creating twisted and swollen veins. Varicose veins are larger, darker and tend to bulge with a rope-like texture on the skinís surface. Varicose veins are also more likely to cause pain and be related to more serious vein disorders. In contrast, spider veins are smaller and closer to the skinís surface in a branch-like or linear formation. Treatment of varicose veins is generally considered outside the realm of cosmetic surgery and patients are often referred to a vascular surgeon.
The techniques most used to treat spider veins are sclerotherapy and/or laser surgery. Spider veins on the face can be treated with lasers. Leg spider veins are treated with sclerotherapy. Both are relatively simple procedures with high success rates.
If you are considering having surgery for your spider veins, consult a cosmetic surgeon. Both sclerotherapy and laser therapy can completely remove the spider veins, although laser therapy is effective on smaller areas or less extensive cases of spidering. Studies have shown that 80 to 90 percent of patients treated for spider veins are happy with the results. Sclerotherapy and laser therapy cannot, however, prevent new spider veins from forming. If new spider veins appear, you may need to repeat the procedure.