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What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias, are small thin blood vessels visible beneath the skin. They usually develop on the face or legs, and may look like a series of thin tree branches or strands of a spider web. Although most spider veins are only a cosmetic issue, for some people they can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as aching, burning, swelling and leg-cramping.

Spider veins are extremely common, affecting nearly half of the adult population of the United States. Many patients are bothered when spider veins develop on prominent areas such as the legs or face, and seek treatment to eliminate them. Many spider-vein treatments are highly effective and minimally invasive, offering aesthetically pleasing results without painful or lengthy downtime.

Causes Of Spider Veins

Spider veins develop from a back-flow of blood in the veins. This condition, which results from damaged valves in the veins, is called “venous reflux.” As blood collects in these veins, their walls distend. This increases the size of the veins, and makes them visible under the surface of the skin. When smaller, more superficial veins are involved, a web of red or blue thin branches appear on the surface of the skin, usually on the legs or face.

Risk Factors For Developing Spider Veins

Risk factors for developing spider veins include the following:

  • Increasing age over 50

  • Smoking

  • Family history

  • Prolonged sitting or standing

  • Hormonal changes

  • Pregnancy

  • Obesity

  • Lack of exercise

  • Sun exposure

Hormonal changes increase the risk of developing spider veins. There is a higher risk of developing the problem during puberty, menopause, pregnancy and while taking birth control medication. Since extra weight puts stress on veins, pregnancy involves a double risk. This is why more women than men develop spider veins.

How Are Spider Veins Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of spider veins includes the following:

  • Physical examination of the patient

  • Analysis of symptoms

  • Diagnostic ultrasound

Treatment Options For Spider Veins

Spider veins can be treated in a number of ways, all of which are minimally invasive. As with so many other medical conditions, weight loss and regular exercise are helpful in treating spider veins and particularly in keeping them from developing into varicose veins.

Compression Stockings

The simplest solution for treating spider veins is for the patient to wear compression stockings, which put pressure on the affected veins and promote blood flow back to the heart. This method is designed to control the symptoms of spider veins, not remove them.


Sclerotherapy involves injecting a sclerosant, a solution designed to collapse them, into the veins. This procedure is performed in a doctor’s office. Each treatment takes approximately one hour, and a typical patient requires two to four treatments.

Laser Treatment

There are several different types of laser treatment available, including endovenous laser ablation surgery. This treats large veins by passing a laser fiber through a catheter directly into the vein. Veins just under the surface of the skin can be treated with a simpler laser procedure over the course of several treatment sessions.

After performing a physical examination and going over a patient’s medical history and general health, the doctor will decide which procedure is best for each individual patient.

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