Austin Vascular Surgeons

Cardiovascular, Vascular, & Vein Specialists

Austin, Texas Ph: (512) 339-9102

Spider Veins | Leg Vein Treatments And Removal


Spider Veins – Definition

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Spider veins, which are also often also referred to as telangiectasias, are abnormal veins that can form anywhere on the body but which most commonly form on the legs, ankles, and feet. These veins are located within the skin and are therefore more of a skin condition rather than a circulatory problem. They are very small thread sized veins that are less than 1 mm in diameter. They are usually dark red or purple in color, although they can sometimes also have a bluish hue. They often form as clusters and often people have particular “problem areas” on their legs where more of these veins tend to form. They can range from being very mild and subtle to very extensive and obvious visibly. Since they often form as small irregular clusters than can have the appearance of a network of spider webs, they have been given the term spider veins. Spider veins are not a health risk and the mere presence of them does not typically indicate a circulation problem or a more significant medical condition.

Why Did I Get Spider Veins?

Doctors have not been able to truly determine that for sure. It is known that they are hereditary, commonly being passed from family member to family member through genes. There is also a known hormonal and gender component, with females developing them much more frequently then males. But unfortunately if you are genetically prone to spider veins then you will develop them over time, no matter how healthy that you are.

Certain types of situations can accelerate the quantity and severity of the development of spider veins. It is known that prolonged standing without movement can accelerate the development of spider veins. Therefore occupations in which you stand for many hours a day, such as teachers, cashiers, bank tellers, cosmetologists, etc, tend to have more severe cases at earlier ages. Essentially, gravity is your enemy if you have this condition. Also, aging tends to bring them on as well. The more years that you live standing on your feet, the worse they get. Veins tend to weaken as you get older, so if you are prone to spider veins then they will get more severe and more extensive as you age. Being overweight or being pregnant also tends to accelerate and worsen spider veins.

Lastly, some patients that have a severe case of spider veins may have an underlying venous disease referred to as venous insufficiency or venous reflux. If there is evidence of this on your exam then your doctor may suggest ultrasound testing to assess for this.

Can Spider Veins Cause Pain or Other Symptoms?

Occasionally. Most individuals with spider veins do not have any pain or symptoms associated with them. But about 20% of patient reports some mild symptoms related to their spider veins. Often the symptoms are described as aching, burning, or itching. There is often correlation to hormonal cycles, with women often reporting symptoms around the time of their menstrual cycle. When symptoms of pain, swelling, or other leg symptoms are present in conjunction with the appearance of spider veins, then it is often a good idea to get tested for underlying venous diseases in the leg.

There are some instances where you have inherited 2 separate venous conditions, spider veins and also venous reflux disease. If this is the case, then you can also be prone to more significant leg vein problems including varicose veins, progressive leg pain and swelling, skin texture and color changes, etc. So when patients with spider veins present to the doctor with symptoms of leg pain and leg swelling, it is often recommended that the individual undergo venous duplex ultrasound testing of the legs to assess for a more significant vein condition.

Can I Cure Myself of Spider Veins?

No, there is no cure for spider veins. But there is hope of improving the appearance of your legs or other skin areas. The veins can be treated to make them resolve. But just be aware that since you are not cured of the underlying cause, which is genetic, you will go on to develop more abnormal spider veins over time. Individuals with spider veins often get them treated every few years to keep their skin and body looking more youthful and natural.

You can also do certain things to minimize the development of new spider veins. Wearing compression stockings, elevating your legs, exercising, maintaining a normal weight, and eating healthy can all have benefit in minimizing spider vein development.

What Vein Treatments Are Available?

There are several treatment options when it comes to spider vein therapy. The simple way to break down the treatment options is to consider the 2 categories of therapies. 1) Removal of the veins with thermal / heat ablation 2) Removal of the veins with chemical / medication ablation.

With thermal ablation, the options are surface lasers (such as a YAG laser), Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy, or Ohmic Thermolysis (VeinGogh or VeinWave). Of the thermal devices, only the Ohmic Thermolysis device was designed exclusively for treatment of spider veins. The laser and IPL devices are often applied to dozens of skin conditions and these devices were not designed to exclusively target abnormal veins. As a result, the laser and IPL devices can often be less effective for removing veins and be more prone to skin reactions such as skin burns or skin discoloration. Also, with laser and IPL you have to be very cautious with certain skin tones / ethnic groups which may develop pigmentation changes in the skin with therapy. As a result of these potential problems with laser and IPL, our preferred modality for thermal treatment of spider veins is Ohmic Thermolysis using the VeinGogh or VeinWave device. These devices can be used on any location of the body, including the legs, ankles, feet, and face. These devices can also be used on all skin colors / skin tones without significant risk of pigmentation changes or skin burns.

In terms of the 2nd category of therapy, i.e. chemical / medication ablation, we find this option to be the most effective. This modality of medication injection goes by the name of sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy has been utilized for many decades for the treatment of spider veins. There are safe and effective medications available that are FDA approved. These medications have a high efficacy rate along with a low side effect profile. The treatments are associated with very little discomfort. Very small micro-needles are utilized and the medications have a temporary numbing effect as they are injected, making the treatments very tolerable. Common medications utilized for sclerotherapy include Asclera, Sotradecol, Polidocanol, Glycerine, and hypertonic saline.

How Long Does a Vein Treatment Session Take?

At our Vein Center, a typical session of spider vein therapy lasts approximately 30 minutes. Both legs can be treated during the same session. If other locations need therapy, such as the face, ankles, or feet, these areas are often treated during a 30 minute session as well. Depending on the number of spider veins that you have, more than one treatment session may be needed. We do offer a free no-obligation consultation with our physician in order to examine your veins and to give you an estimate on the length of treatment and the number of treatment sessions needed.

How Do I Arrange My Spider Vein Treatment Session?

Call (512) 339-9102. You can also utilize the email link at the bottom of our Contact page. We offer appointments Monday through Friday, both mornings and afternoon. We do allow for your consultation and treatment to be performed on the same day in order to minimize your number of visits.

Austin Vascular & Vein Specialists
Serving: Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Jollyville, Lakeway, Pflugerville, West Lake Hills, & Georgetown,TX

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Austin Vascular & Vein Specialists