It’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between varicose veins and spider veins. Spider veins are thin, web-like, purplish-red veins that can occur anywhere on the leg. They can occur in clusters or in isolation. In contrast, varicose veins are enlarged, ropey veins that are tortuous, elevated and are typically a sign of a functional problem within the deeper veins of the leg. While the two are very different, both can be caused by the same factors and serve as early warning signs of a circulatory issue called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Chronic venous insufficiency means that your veins are not functioning properly and the blood is not getting back up to the heart as efficiently as it should. This can lead to other health issues in the future if left untreated. Aside from cosmetic issues associated with both, they can also be tender, uncomfortable, cause discoloration and worsen over time. Very occasionally they can lead to spontaneous bleeding.
Spider veins can often occur along with deeper, bluish veins that we call “reticular veins”. These veins serve as feeder veins, supplying the spider veins with blood. Treating reticular veins is an important part of the overall treatment of spider veins. If they are ignored they can be the cause of recurrence or non-response. The deeper system veins are often the root cause of what is happening on the surface and need to be treated in order to get optimal and lasting results. Even though spider veins are considered strictly cosmetic, many people choose to have them treated. They impact our self-confidence and only get worse with time. Fortunately, spider veins are easily treated. Unfortunately, though, since they are typically genetically inherited we don’t “cure” people of their spider veins but we can “manage” them very nicely and keep them at bay.
What to expect if you seek treatment for spider veins:
- A medical provider will perform a visual and physical examination of your legs and feet.
- A medical and family history will be recorded.
- Further vascular testing may be scheduled if your health care provider feels it is needed.
- If treatment is recommended: Targeted injection sclerotherapy is the most common procedure used to treat spider veins. This is an injection of a medication directly into the spider vein using a very tiny needle. The medication causes inflammation inside of the vein and this ultimately leads to its collapse. When the tiny spider veins collapse they become much less noticeable. The number of injections that will be needed depends on how the spider veins respond to the treatment as well as how completely eliminated the person would like their veins to be.