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What are spider veins?

Spider veins are very small threadlike reddish or bluish veins that occur in the skin typically on the legs and often have a branching spider web type pattern. These are different than the larger veins called varicose veins that develop under the skin and bulge out.

Spider veins, also referred to as telangiectasias, tend to occur more frequently in women and are more common as you get older and if you have a family history.

Often, they cause no symptoms, but spider veins can cause local pain, itching, or a burning sensation.

Spider veins can develop on their own or can be due to an underlying deeper vein problem called superficial venous insufficiency. When spider veins occur on the outside of the thigh, it is because they have typically occurred on their own. When they occur on the inside of the calf or thigh or particularly at the inside of the ankles, then we often suspect underlying superficial venous insufficiency. This condition can also cause symptoms of leg heaviness, pain, and swelling. This possibility can be addressed prior to treating the spider veins.

How to remove spider veins

While there have been many treatments used in the past to remove spider veins in the legs, the most effective is a simple, outpatient procedure called sclerotherapy. With sclerotherapy, a tiny needle is used to inject a medication into the vein which causes the vein to close down and disappear. Blood reroutes through your good normal veins. There are several medications we use that are FDA approved. Sclerotherapy is a very effective treatment but is often not covered by insurance as most insurance companies consider it to be cosmetic.

Sclerotherapy is a simple outpatient procedure and does not require any sedation or anesthesia. Compression stockings are worn during the first week after treatment as studies have shown this improves results. It usually takes several weeks after sclerotherapy for the spider veins to disappear. Complications are low and side effects tend to be minimal. If spider veins are extensive, or come back after the first treatment, then sometimes additional injections are needed.

Other spider vein treatments

Laser therapy: Shining a laser on the spider veins has been used, but this is a less effective for spider veins on the legs and can be somewhat painful. Laser treatment is more effective to get rid of spider veins that occur on the face and neck.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): Similar to laser treatment for spider veins, IPL works better to remove the very small veins that can occur on the face, but is less effective in the legs.

Thermocoagulation: This spider vein treatment involves using a tiny heat probe inserted into the vein to try to eradicate the vein. This treatment is not very commonly used.

Microphlebectomy: This procedure uses tiny skin nicks and an instrument to remove the veins, but it is mainly used for varicose veins and not spider veins.

Other spider vein treatments: Many simpler treatments have been tried over the years, but have not been effective. Unfortunately, no dietary changes, herbal supplements or treatments such as apple cider vinegar or essential oils can get rid of spider veins.

Contact Fairfax Vascular Center to schedule a consultation with our vein specialists and learn more about how to remove your spider veins.

Michael Karnaze
About the Author

Dr. Karnaze has spent the past 25 years perfecting minimally invasive techniques to treat arterial and venous diseases. In addition, he is a renowned expert in newer minimally invasive therapies for cancer patients. He joined Fairfax Radiology in 1988, is certified by the American Board of Radiology and has received subspecialty certification in Vascular and Interventional Radiology.