Spider Veins: Causes and Treatment
Spider veins on legs (telangiectasias) show up as a mesh of tiny veins near the surface of the skin. Spider veins are dilated, or enlarged, but they are normally less than one millimeter in diameter. Many people assume that getting rid of spider veins requires only a cosmetic solution, but sometimes spider veins are symptomatic of a more serious condition in the larger veins.
How Can I Tell if I Have Spider Veins?
There are three different dilated vein conditions: spider veins, reticular veins, and varicose veins.
Spider veins on legs form a mesh pattern that often resembles a web, which is how this particular venous disease gets its name. On thighs and knees, spider veins may resemble the branches of a tree or appear as thin, separate lines. Spider veins are less than one millimeter in diameter.
Reticular veins measure between one millimeter and three millimeters in diameter. These bluish veins shouldn’t be confused with the normal bluish veins that can be seen in people with thin, transparent skin.
Varicose veins are dilated veins that are equal to or greater than three millimeters in diameter. Varicose veins are often twisted and bulge on the surface of the skin.Request an Appointment
What Causes Spider Veins on Legs?
Spider veins are the most frequent feature of venous disease and are the mildest indication of venous reflux, a disorder in which the tiny valves inside veins that control blood flow become damaged (valvular incompetence), allowing blood to flow backwards and pool.
The most frequent cause of varicose veins is likely due to an abnormality in the vein wall, although the cause can also be in conjunction with valvular incompetence
There are several factors that can contribute to venous reflux and valvular incompetence:
- Genetics — The greatest determining factor for venous disease
- Gender — Women suffer from venous disease more frequently than men
- Obesity or weight gain — Excessive weight can accelerate the progression of venous disease
- Pregnancy — Elevated blood volume, hormone levels and pressure on the leg veins due to an enlarging uterus
- Prolonged standing or sitting — Certain occupations and sedentary lifestyles due to inactivity of the muscles that help pump blood back to the heart
- Injury or surgery (especially near the pelvis) — Blood flow through a vein becomes restricted
- Blood clot — Blood flow through a vein becomes blocked
Symptoms of Spider Veins
Typically, spider veins look unsightly and may itch or burn. Other common symptoms include pain and aching, fatigue, heavy or restless legs, and leg cramps. These symptoms usually indicate another underlying disorder in veins that can’t be seen from the surface of the skin.
In these more serious cases, getting rid of spider veins may be part of a more comprehensive therapy involving those veins that are not visible.
Treatments for Getting Rid of Spider Veins
There are several treatments for spider veins, depending on their size.
The symptoms of mild venous disease can sometimes be made less severe with conservative therapy measures including compression stockings, leg elevation, exercise and over-the-counter medications.
More serious venous disease can usually be treated with radiofrequency endovenous ablation therapy, foam sclerotherapy, or ambulatory phlebectomy.Request an Appointment
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