What are spider veins?
Spider veins are visible on the surface of the skin and are often unsightly. Unlike varicose veins, they do not bulge out or if they do, it is just very slightly. They appear as lines or as bursts and have a range of colours from bright red to purple.
‘Spider Veins’ is the general term for the range of skin surface veins that occur. This range goes from the very small, bright red telangiectasias, through to the reddish-purple spiders per se, to the bigger reticular veins. Often, all three of these are present at the same time.
When they occur on the face, they are called facial veins. These are usually the very small telangiectasias.
Who gets spider veins?
They are very common and are present in more than half of women by the age of 50 years.
The main risk factors are: varicose veins, family history of spider veins and being female. In women, the hormonal influence is very strong, and there is a strong connection with pregnancy, the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy.
Skin damage from the sun is also a significant factor, particularly in relation to facial veins and veins on the lower legs.
What about symptoms?
They do not usually cause symptoms. When they do, people often complain of throbbing, burning, itching and aching. Menstrual cycle can significantly influence the degree of symptoms and in particular, women often experience worsening at the time of periods.
Occasionally, people with veins around the ankles and feet can experience bleeding, either spontaneously or as a result of trauma.
Often a person will have either visible varicose veins or there will be a suggestion that the deeper surface veins in the legs are not working properly. An ultrasound scan of the leg veins will confirm whether this is the case.
Treatment commonly falls into two categories: sclerotherapy and skin laser. Often a person’s treatment will involve a combination of these.
Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a small amount of irritant into these small veins, which blocks off the veins. It is then reabsorbed by the body.
Laser is a skin treatment that uses a vascular laser. Laser light targets the blood inside the tiny veins, causing them to block off and be reabsorbed by the body.