Spider veins are tiny dilated blood vessels that appear close to the surface of the skin. They often resemble a web or a spider’s legs, hence the name. These veins are most commonly found on the legs, although they can also occur on the face and other parts of the body. Although they are largely harmless in themselves, they are unsightly and often cause significant cosmetic concerns for the majority of sufferers.
What causes spider veins?
The formation of spider veins is a normal part of the healing process, so anything that can cause stress in the skin can trigger the formation of new areas. Common triggers are minor injuries, exposure to heat or cold and surgical incisions on the legs. Prolonged standing and concurrent varicose veins tend to aggravate the development of spider veins. Genetic and hormonal factors are very important which explains why some patients are more prone to making new spider veins than others.
What can you do about spider veins?
If you’re concerned about the development of spider veins or already have them, it’s essential to consult with a vascular specialist. The most effective treatment option is microsclerotherapy, but it is important to rule out problems with bigger veins before commencing treatment. Creams and lotions have absolutely no effect on spider veins. Treatments with cosmetic laser such as IPL are often either ineffective or result in inferior outcomes to microsclerotherapy.
How does microsclerotherapy work?
A liquid is carefully injected into the veins which strips away their non-stick lining. Injected veins will then take on a darker appearance for a few weeks due to the old blood that can collect inside the lumen. After that, most of the treated veins will fade away as the body absorbs that old blood. Spider veins are a perfectly natural part of the body’s healing mechanism and a small proportion of successfully injected veins will always recover. For that reason, it will usually take two or three treatment sessions to obtain a desirable result.
I’ve had treatment in the past but it didn’t work, what can I do?
It is important to attend a clinician who has a large experience of treating spider veins. The most common cause for failed treatment is underlying veins that have been missed at the last attempt. The first step in assessing why a previous treatment has been unsuccessful if to undertake a detailed ultrasound assessment. This often identifies small veins (and sometimes not so small veins) that have helped keep the spider veins from responding to to the first treatment with microsclerotherapy.
What does microsclerotherapy involve?
A treatment session is a straightforward outpatient visit that lasts around 30 minutes. Very small needles are used to carefully inject spider veins and there is usually little or no discomfort. Compression stockings are worn for 3 days after treatment to speed up the healing process. A second microsclerotherapy session is often desirable around 6 to 8 weeks later.
A video of microsclerotherapy being performed can be found here.