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Unwanted Veins

Both spider veins and varicose veins are enlarged, dilated, superficial blood vessels that can appear red or blue. They can occur together or separately.

  • Spider veins are smaller in size and commonly appear on the legs and face. They are about the width of a large hair and may appear as a single vein or in a matted, branched or webbed pattern. Spider veins are commonly treated with laser light or sclerotherapy.
  • Varicose veins are larger and may be raised above the surface of the skin. These may cause pain or discomfort most commonly described as a throbbing or burning sensation. Varicose veins can be treated with sclerotherapy, intravascular laser or radiofrequency. In some cases, unwanted veins are treated surgically by either tying them off or removing them.

Causes

The exact cause of dilated blood vessels is not known. Researchers do know that they occur in women more commonly than in men. Possible causes may be:

  • A family history of spider and/or varicose veins
  • Female hormones released in puberty, by birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy or pregnancy
  • An injury
  • Wearing tight hosiery or girdles
  • Sun exposure
  • Other spider or varicose veins

Treatment for unwanted veins is between 50% and 90% effective, depending on the patient and the veins being treated. Because spider vein treatment is usually done for cosmetic reasons, most insurance providers do not cover it. Insurance may, however, cover all or some of the treatment costs for larger veins if there is a medical reason for their treatment.

Reduce Your Risk

Because some causes, such as heredity, are out of our control, the appearance of unwanted veins can’t be completely prevented. That aside, research suggests that the following steps may minimize their appearance:

  • Wearing support hose
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet
  • Using sunscreen, especially on the face
  • Avoiding high heels

Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is an injection therapy used to treat spider veins and varicose veins. In this procedure the dermatologist uses a fine needle to inject a sclerosing solution directly into the unwanted blood vessel. There are several different solutions that can be used, depending on the size of the blood vessel and other factors.

The solution irritates the lining of the vein, causing the blood to thicken and block the vessel. It then breaks down into scar tissue, which is further broken down by the body over a period of a few weeks. Any resulting scar tissue is either completely invisible or barely noticeable, and the vein no longer exists.

Sclerotherapy has a long history, and has been used to treat spider veins since the 1930s. Recent advances in ultrasound-guided techniques allow dermatologists to use sclerotherapy on veins that are located more deeply under the skin and that previously could only be treated by surgery.

Side Effects

Possible side effects of sclerotherapy vary with the type of solution injected and may include:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Swollen ankles or feet
  • Muscle cramps immediately after the injection (depending on the type of solution used)
  • Red, raised hive-like areas at the injection site
  • Differences in skin pigmentation around the treatment area (This occurs more frequently in patients who have larger veins treated.)
  • Smaller, red blood vessels that appear in the place of larger ones that had been treated. Additional treatment can remove these.
  • Small ulcers at the injection sites that can appear up to a few days after treatment
  • Bruising
  • Allergic reaction to the solution
  • Inflammation of the blood vessel that was treated (unusual)
  • A lump of coagulated blood in the treated vessel (This can be easily drained by the dermatologist.)

A history of blood clots is not necessarily a reason to avoid sclerotherapy or vein treatment. Patients should keep in mind that veins may reappear or new veins may form in their place after any spider or varicose vein procedure, including sclerotherapy.

There are several other treatment options for spider and varicose veins as well.

 

SPIDER AND VARICOSE VEINS

Both spider veins and varicose veins are enlarged, dilated, superficial blood vessels that can appear red or blue. They can occur together or separately.

  • Spider veins are smaller in size and commonly appear on the legs and face. They are about the width of a large hair and may appear as a single vein or in a matted, branched or webbed pattern. Spider veins are commonly treated with laser light or sclerotherapy.
  • Varicose veins are larger and may be raised above the surface of the skin. These may cause pain or discomfort most commonly described as a throbbing or burning sensation. Varicose veins can be treated with sclerotherapy, intravascular laser or radiofrequency. In some cases, unwanted veins are treated surgically by either tying them off or removing them.

Causes

The exact cause of dilated blood vessels is not known. Researchers do know that they occur in women more commonly than in men. Possible causes may be:

  • A family history of spider and/or varicose veins
  • Female hormones released in puberty, by birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy or pregnancy
  • An injury
  • Wearing tight hosiery or girdles
  • Sun exposure
  • Other spider or varicose veins

Treatment

For unwanted veins is between 50% and 90% effective, depending on the patient and the veins being treated. Because spider vein treatment is usually done for cosmetic reasons, most insurance providers do not cover it. Insurance may, however, cover all or some of the treatment costs for larger veins if there is a medical reason for their treatment.

Reduce Your Risk

Because some causes, such as heredity, are out of our control, the appearance of unwanted veins can’t be completely prevented. That aside, research suggests that the following steps may minimize their appearance:

  • Wearing support hose
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet
  • Using sunscreen, especially on the face
  • Avoiding high heels