As we get older, many of us develop varicose veins and spider veins on our legs, face, arms and on other parts of the body. The appearance of these prominent, unattractive veins is a nuisance and, in the case of severe varicose veins, possibly quite painful.
Spider veins, which more commonly appear on the face and legs, are purple or red in color and are smaller than varicose veins. They crop up close to the skin's surface and are said to form in a web-like pattern, giving them their name. Spider veins are usually not painful and thus are considered strictly an aesthetic issue.
Varicose veins are larger and much more noticeable than spider veins. They are also red, purple or blue in color, and they most often develop in patients' legs. Varicose veins can resemble long, bulging cords underneath the skin's surface, sometimes in a slightly rippled pattern, and stand out from the skin in an obvious manner. Varicose veins can be painful, as well as cause aching and itching for patients who experience them.
What Causes Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?
The causes of varicose veins and spider veins aren't completely understood, but a weak circulatory system is often to blame. Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are smaller, superficial veins that belong to a larger vein network. They are often simply broken blood vessels; they do no harm, but neither do they serve a purpose. That's why it isn't hazardous to remove them. In addition to poor circulation, spider veins have been linked to hormonal changes, pregnancy and hereditary ties, and can occur hand in hand with rosacea and sun damage.
Varicose veins are more common among women than men, and are usually a problem for older patients, although they've been known to develop in younger women during pregnancy. These large, unsightly veins can form due to sudden weight gain and even a prolonged sedentary lifestyle. Mostly, varicose veins develop in older patients because their blood vessel walls are weaker. The weakening of these veins creates greater difficulty in moving blood through the system. Over time, these weak veins can't circulate blood at the proper rate, and so blood begins to pool and collect, causing the veins to swell. Varicose veins may also develop with certain types of venous diseases, or with blood clotting.
Vein Treatment Options
There are several possibilities when it comes to vein treatment or vein removal. Certain treatment types are more effective for spider veins than for varicose veins, and vice versa.
- Laser Vein Removal: Focused beams of light energy target and remove problem veins quickly and quite painlessly. The laser's light is absorbed by the unsightly blood vessels, and then laser vein removal uses heat to disintegrate the inactive veins. Laser vein removal can treat both spider veins and varicose veins, but more intensive treatment might be necessary for severe varicose veins.
- Sclerotherapy: an injectable vein treatment, Sclerotherapy is also effective for both spider veins and small varicose veins. The treatment solution or sclerosing agent, once injected into problem veins, irritates the blood vessel's lining and causes the vein to clot. Soon after, the vein turns to scar tissue and quickly diminishes in appearance. Patients can choose from Micro-Sclerotherapy, Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy and Foam Sclerotherapy, depending on their treatment needs and preferences. Sclerotherapy is better suited to treating medium-sized veins in the body; fine veins in the face usually aren't large enough to accommodate Sclerotherapy injections.
- Endovenous Laser Treatment (ELT, ELVT): ELT is a very effective varicose vein treatment that uses a catheter with an attached laser fiber. The catheter is inserted into the superficial vein, then the catheter tip and laser proceed to heat up, causing the vein to collapse. The extra blood and vein tissue is reabsorbed into the body's system, thereby removing the vein swiftly and harmlessly. Possible side effect with Endovenous Laser Treatment include bruising, swelling and redness.
- Vein Removal Surgery: widely considered to be the only option for effectively treating large varicose veins, vein removal surgery is very popular and available in three different procedures: Vein Stripping, Ambulatory Phlebectomy and Vein Ligation. All three are considered minor surgical procedures, and they all remove varicose veins through small incisions at the problem area. Possible risks of vein removal surgery include bruising, infection and hematoma.
- Alternative Vein Treatments: for minor cases of spider veins and varicose veins, alternative treatment methods include compression stockings, weight loss, exercise, anti-inflammatory medications, leg elevation, and skin care regimens that include specialized creams and lotions.
Choosing a Vein Treatment
To determine which vein treatment will be most effective for your individual conditions, it's highly recommended to meet with a vein removal provider first. Not only will they be able to better inform you about vein removal procedures in general, they can evaluate your odds for success with comparative treatments and help you choose the best one for you.