Spider veins are dilated capillaries in the skin that are most common in the thighs and lower legs. Their color is blue, red or violet and their diameter varies from 0.1 to 1 mm. However, there are also deeper veins with larger diameter which end up in the spider veins and channel them with blood.
Essentially, spider veins are the ones with damaged valves, which are found inside the veins and regulate the normal circulation of blood. The normal direction of blood flow is from the legs to the heart. In the event of a lesion, the blood moves upside down (from the heart to the legs). This causes the blood in the legs to increase and puts more pressure on the veins; thus, vein walls become thinner and veins swell and become more visible.
The appearance of spider veins on the leg is a sign of mild venous insufficiency and this means that blood circulation in the leg is disturbed. Spider veins in the leg often coexist with varicose veins.
Which are the symptoms of spider veins?
Patients with spider veins often have no symptoms at all. The problem is mainly cosmetic, which is why many ladies feel uncomfortable and choose to wear long pants even during the summer season. In some cases they may experience itching and a feeling of heaviness mainly in the evening and during the months with higher temperatures. If the patient has venous insufficiency, it can sometimes lead to swelling in the area of the ankle.
In which parts of the body are spider veins found?
Spider veins can appear on the whole body but they most often appear on the legs (thighs and shins) but also on the face (around the nose or cheeks). Unlike varicose veins, they are located on the surface of the skin and have a smaller diameter. Women are more likely to develop spider veins. Blue ones are caused by venous stasis, while red ones are due to arterial stenosis.
Spider veins: What factors are to blame for their appearance?
Spider veins on legs can be the result of:
- standing for extended periods
- hormonal disorders
- venous insufficiency.
Facial spider veins can be due to:
- acne problems
- sun exposure
Diagnosis of varicose veins
The very image of the dilated veins (red or blue) is an indication of spider veins. In addition to the clinical examination, a triplex ultrasound will be performed by the vascular surgeon in order to determine the function of the venous network. Depending on the severity of the problem, he will recommend the appropriate treatment.
What treatments are used to treat varicose veins?
Depending on the patient’s problem, the doctor chooses which treatment is needed. The goal is to restore the image of the affected area and relieve the patient. Spider vein treatments are performed in the doctor’s office while the number of sessions will depend on the severity of the case and the response of the organization itself.
The treatments for spider veins are the following:
- Laser for spider veins: Nd-YAG laser is indicated for the treatment of varicose veins. It works by emitting a pulse of light wavelength 1064 nm, which enters under the skin and is absorbed by hemoglobin. The presence of the laser raises the temperature in the vessel and gradually stops blood circulation. This results in the destruction of the vessel and its absorption by the body. Before treatment, the doctor applies a local anesthetic cream or cooling spray, thus, the treatment is almost painless and feels like a slight sting. Laser for spider veins is usually used to treat larger diameter spider veins, but in combination with sclerotherapy it can treat even the thinnest. After the end of the treatment the use elastic compression socks for a few days is necessary. This method can also be applied to the face.
- Sclerotherapy: in this method a special sterile solution is injected into a vein with very thin needles that do not cause any pain; that is why anesthesia is not needed. This solution acts on the walls of the vein causing lesions and forcing them to stick together making the vein close and harden while, slowly, the body absorbs it. After sclerotherapy it is necessary to use elastic compression socks for about 10 days.
- Foam sclerotherapy: is essentially the evolution of classical sclerotherapy. The infusion is done with the help of ultrasound and the solution is in the form of foam. It is a very effective method applied to larger diameter spider veins.
- Thermocoagulation : This is a painless and fast method in which, through a tiny needle, high frequency waves, which give the vein pulsed heat energy, are transmitted. In this way, the vein shrinks while the surrounding tissues remain intact. At the end of the treatment the vein is extinguished. Thermocoagulation can be combined with sclerotherapy can be very effective in treating varicose veins with very small diameter.
Are results permanent?
All treatments for spider veins are very effective. Their maintenance depends on the individual himself; for example, prolonged standing or obesity can lead to their recurrence.
Can varicose veins be dangerous?
Varicose veins do not cause any serious health problems, only annoying symptoms such as heaviness or a burning sensation. Needless to say, their presence is a sign of mild venous insufficiency and requires annual tests to monitor any changes in the venous system.