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What are spider veins?

Telangiectasias are small, widened blood vessels that are also known as spider veins and/or broken blood vessels which are visibly seen on the surface of the skin. They’re most commonly seen on the face and legs; however, they can also appear on any other part of the body. If you look at someone who has spider veins, you’ll notice tiny red lines that branch out into many directions; sort of like a web. Though they are harmless, broken blood vessels can still affect how one feels about their appearance and can be treated in many different ways. Typically, the first step is to determine the underlying cause.

What are the causes?

Causes of spider veins can vary from person to person and it can happen to anyone at any given age. There are many different causes of broken blood vessels and the risk factors depend on the particular cause.

One of the most common causes is simply the process of aging. As years go by, our skin and veins start to weaken and it results in decreased recuperative mechanisms and this is why it’s more common to see spider veins as people grow older. Heredity and genes are another common cause, for some unknown reason spider veins run in families and may also increase with age. So in these cases the appearance of spider veins is fairly normal.

A lot of people love being in the sun, and this is another huge factor that can lead to facial spider veins. UV rays and lack of sunscreen usage can cause damage to the walls of the superficial blood vessels in the skin, causing them to thin out. The dilated and broken blood vessels become more visible through the skin, which is mostly seen near the nose, cheeks and chin. There are other factors that can prompt you to spider veins. Rosacea is a perfect example, it’s a condition that basically causes dilation of the blood vessels in the cheeks. This can weaken the capillaries over time, resulting in breakage and leading to new spider veins occuring.

With all of the different causes leading to spider veins, there are many treatment options available that can reduce and/or eliminate the appearance of broken blood vessels. VBeam pulsed dye laser is one of the most common treatment options for facial spider veins. It’s an easy, non-invasive procedure that eliminates facial veins. The laser basically transmits photons that are absorbed by the blood cells in the vein and this generates heat, causing the destruction of the blood vessels. The damaged vein will eventually shrink and dissolve over time.

Leg spider veins vs. varicose veins

Venous insufficiency is a medical condition that encompasses both spider veins and varicose veins. Regardless of which condition that you suffer from, both are the result of a weakened or damaged valve in the veins themselves. Although both conditions fall under the venous insufficiency umbrella there are distinct differences between the two conditions. Spider veins present themselves as small, thick lines. These are flat or slightly raised. Another tell-tale sign is the color of the spider vein. This discoloration can vary between blue, red or even purple. Generally, leg spider veins can cause a little discomfort but often they are painless. This is not the case with varicose veins which can cause a range of painful symptoms such as bleeding, swelling of the legs and itching. Varicose veins tend to look larger and deeper than spider veins. Another side effect of varicose veins is that they increase the chance of blood clots and can even cause circulation issues in the patient.

Leg spider vein treatments

One thing that can help is to wear compression stockings over long periods of time, which places an increased pressure on the veins in the lower legs. This applied pressure helps improve blood flow and prevent any further spider or varicose veins. Compression stockings can also relieve and reduce swelling as well as lower the risk of developing blood clots in the legs. Sclerotherapy can also be used to treat leg spider veins. It involves injecting an irritant directly into the vein and once the walls of the veins become irritated, they clump together and prevent blood from flowing into the area. This allows the reduction of swelling and causes the leg vein to shrink. Again, just as in facial spider veins, over time the spider veins will fade away. While sclerotherapy is more common, the smaller, fine, reddish spider veins respond best to laser treatment because these tiny vessels are more difficult to inject.

Invasive treatments such as surgery is typically done to relieve varicose veins, however, not everyone with varicose veins is a candidate for surgery. Surgery is usually done for people who either don’t get relief from non surgical home care methods, or simply for cosmetic reasons and want to try different methods other than sclerotherapy or laser treatment to make the veins less prominent. Unfortunately with surgery there will be some downtime involved and it may take a some time before you can get back to your normal activities.

Whether you have facial or leg spider veins or even varicose veins you are not alone. There are many treatment options that can help reduce the visibility and/or swelling and pain. It’s always important to first determine the underlying cause which will give you a better understanding of which spider vein or varicose vein treatment option fits best for you.

To learn more about spider vein treatments and procedures such as laser therapy, please contact us online today or call 212-535-3088. Dr. Michele S. Green, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City who specializes in a wide range of short term and long term dermatology treatments.

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