Spider veins (telangiectasias) are similar to varicose veins, but smaller and found closer to the skin's surface. They take their name from their appearance, which resembles a spider’s web. Usually red or blue in color, they vary in size and can be found in other areas of the body besides the legs, including the face.
What causes spider veins?
There are different causes for spider veins under different conditions and cannot be isolated into one or two.
- Genetic predisposition
- Aging + broken capillaries
- Exposure to extreme temperature variations, wind and sun damage. UVA/UVB sun exposure
- Hormonal shifts
- Smoking/Drinking alcohol
- Poor blood circulation (vein health)
- Birth control + oral contraceptives
The incidence of spider veins is more in women compared to men. Use of oral contraceptives, certain cosmetic applications, issues relating to pregnancy, obesity or overweight are among the common causes when we consider spider vein occurrence in women. Men who spend large amounts of time outdoors in sun and wind have been found to be more susceptible to spider vein problems. The singular factor common to all these conditions is poor blood circulation within the metabolic system.
Characteristics of Spider veins
Spider veins can be a personal issue and cause social embarrassment requiring treatment for removal of the spider veins. Night cramps, discomfort or swelling localized to the affected area can be experienced by some of the patients. In some other cases , the discomfort will be absent although the visible blotch of blue, red or purple bunch of veins right under the skin can be a cause for concern.
Several different treatment types are used to treat spider veins: Laser, Sclerotherapy, Ohmic thermolysis, and Intense pulse light (IPL). Often times it is necessary to treat spider veins with different modalities. Many lasers are used in the treatment of spider veins. Lasers speed up the treatment of spider veins by causing heat damage to the veins. The heat damages the vessel lining causing the veins to become smaller. In most cases, sclerotherapy is also used. Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a liquid or foam solution into the spider vein, causing the targeted vein to clot, scar, and eventually shrink away. Multiple treatments can be necessary, and patients should expect bruising, discoloration, and clotting in the treated veins. The combination of heat and sclerotherapy gives a quicker resolution for a superior cosmetic result. Ohmic thermolysis is a relatively new treatment done by directly placing a small needle in the spider vein and focusing heat energy (radio frequency). The heat that is produced causes the vessel to fuse together without damaging the surrounding skin. This device is safe for all skin types. It works better than all other methods of treatment for small reddish veins that are difficult to inject. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)is used for smaller veins in fair skin types. This technique requires experience by the provider and there is more discomfort than other treatments. IPL in the treatment of spider veins has been replaced in most part by newer technologies.