What are spider veins and varicose veins?

Small veins in the skin that appear web-like and red, blue or purple in color, are called spider veins or telangiectasia. Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging, twisted, and often darker in color than spider veins.

Spider veins and varicose veins occur in the legs when the one-way valves in the blood vessels no longer work right, which lets blood collect in the veins instead of flowing back to the heart. This makes the veins widen, often becoming unsightly and uncomfortable. Most commonly, varicose veins near the skin surface are caused by leaky valves in veins deeper in the leg. Untreated, varicose veins typically worsen over time. Spider veins and varicose veins can affect women and men of any age, but they are most common in women of childbearing age or older.

How can varicose veins and spider veins be treated?

Self-care includes elevating your legs, wearing support compression stockings and exercising to keep blood flowing through the veins and to control body weight.

Medical treatment aims to correct the condition causing varicose veins, rather than simply relieve symptoms or smooth over a cosmetic problem. To fix the underlying cause, doctors close down or remove veins with faulty valves that are preventing efficient circulation of the blood. Newer medical treatments to eliminate spider and varicose veins provide good results with faster recovery, minimal discomfort and little disruption of your normal daily activities.

The Vein Clinic offers several treatments for veins that are causing pain, fatigue or other symptoms:

  • Endovenous laser therapy uses a small laser fiber inserted into the faulty vein and positioned with ultrasound guidance. The laser energy heats the vein wall, causing it to shrink and close off. Typically, only one treatment is needed, and patients report very mild discomfort from the procedure. With few exceptions, you can resume normal daily activities immediately. Your skin may be discolored during the healing process, which lasts three to six weeks.
  • Scelerotherapy, or injection therapy, is a common treatment for spider veins and smaller varicose veins that remain after any larger problem veins have been eliminated with laser therapy or surgery. A tiny needle is used to inject a foam that irritates the varicose vein, causing scar tissue to form and close off the vein. As a result, the surface veins are no longer visible, and symp¬toms subside. Generally, two or three sessions are required to treat an affected area.
  • Because of the good results available with modern techniques performed in the doctor’s office, surgery is rarely needed to treat varicose veins today. In some cases, however, surgery is the only treatment for varicose veins covered by patients’ medical insurance. If so, The Vein Clinic may perform ambulatory phlebectomy in the office. This technique involves the removal of short segments of veins through tiny incisions under local anesthesia.

What to expect

During your first visit we’ll take a brief medical history, ask questions and listen to your concerns, and examine your veins. The Vein Clinic at Swedish Vascular Surgery uses state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment to thoroughly evaluate your condition. Our board-certified surgeons are trained to diagnose underlying causes of the problem and provide the best medical care — not just cosmetic — for the surface condition.

Your treatment plan will depend on the size and number of veins to be treated, your medical history, and a careful diagnosis of your condition. Because we have experience with a range of treatments for vascular problems, we will advise the approach that offers the best possible results for you.

After treatment for varicose veins or spider veins

After faulty veins are eliminated, the remaining healthy veins take over, which relieves symptoms such as pain, fatigue and itching. The appearance of your legs improves because the swollen, twisted veins are eliminated. Treatment results in noticeable clearer skin, enabling patients to once again enjoy wearing shorts, swimsuits, skirts and dresses.