You’re probably familiar with varicose veins, those bulging, ropey, colored protrusions on your legs, but you may not be familiar with spider veins. In truth, they’re very similar. Spider veins are caused by the same circulatory system problem as varicose veins, but they occur in the small capillaries near the skin’s surface, creating a lighter, weblike pattern.
Comprehensive Vascular Care has locations in Southfield and Novi, Michigan. Our team of board-certified vascular, vein, and wound care specialists treats your spider veins in-office to help improve your skin’s appearance. Here’s what you need to know about the causes of spider veins, their treatment, and what to expect following treatment.
How spider veins form
Medically known as telangiectasia, spider veins are usually small, but the entire web can cover a large area of skin.
Spider veins form from the same problem that causes varicose veins. Your arteries deliver oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of your body, while the veins return deoxygenated blood to the heart. It’s an uphill battle, though — the blood has to flow upward from the legs against the pull of gravity.
Your body has developed two mechanisms to ensure the blood goes where it’s supposed to. First, the muscles in your calves contract, pushing the blood forward. Second, all the veins contain one-way valves; once the blood has passed each valve, it snaps shut, preventing backflow. The valves can become damaged, though, either due to injury or to increased pressure on the vein walls. When that happens, blood can backtrack, pooling around the damaged area and further increasing pressure in the vein. This condition is known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).
Since capillaries lie close to the skin’s surface, when they become engorged with blood, they’re easily seen, and a web of visible veins forms — spider veins.
Are spider veins dangerous?
The short answer is no, they’re not. While they can occasionally cause itchiness, cramping, or the feeling of “heavy” legs, they’re actually more of a cosmetic issue than a medical one. However, many people are bothered by their appearance and want to get rid of them. If you’re self-conscious of your veins, we can take care of them for you.
Treating spider veins
The gold standard for treating spider veins is sclerotherapy. The treatment involves injecting saline or another solution directly into the offending veins that provokes an immediate biological response. The sclerosant irritates the vein lining, leading to dehydration and ultimately to the veins’ collapse. The vein tissue then shrivels away, and the blood flow is rerouted to healthier veins.
Most people need two or three sessions to collapse the vein entirely. Your doctor will advise you of the exact number during your consultation.
What to expect after spider vein treatment
Following treatment, you may experience some side effects, which include:
- Itching for 1-2 days
- Inflamed, red area at injection site that disappears in a few days
- Bruising around injection site for several days or weeks
- Development of new blood vessels around vein that resolve over a few months
You’ll be able to drive yourself home from the appointment, and you don’t need to take any downtime. We encourage you to walk regularly, as this will help with blood flow and prevent clots from forming.
We also recommend that you use compression stockings for the next couple of weeks, again to help with blood flow and prevent clotting. If your doctor determines you need heavy compression, you can find the appropriate garments at a medical supply store.
You’ll need to avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatories for at least 48 hours to prevent the risk of bleeding. You should also avoid hot baths and compresses, whirlpools or saunas, and direct sunlight for the same period. You can wash the injection site(s) with mild soap and tepid water.
It takes about 3-6 weeks for the treated veins to disappear from sight, and the doctor follows up with you during that time period to determine if you require additional treatment. Studies suggest that sclerotherapy is effective in 60-80% of cases.
If you’re bothered by the appearance of spider veins, Comprehensive Vascular Care can help. Call usl at either of our locations to schedule a consultation with one of our vascular specialists, or book your appointment online today.