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Spider veins, commonly found on the face and legs, are caused by the dilation of a small group of blood vessels near the skin's surface. They often look like red or purple sunbursts or web patterns and are more common in women.
Varicose veins are caused by swollen or enlarged blood vessels. The blood vessels have enlarged due to a weakening in the vein's wall or valves. Located deeper in the skin than spider veins, they may appear raised and often are blue.
Varicose veins can be serious because they may be associated with the development of one or more of the following conditions:
Phlebitis. Inflammation of the vein.
Thromboses. This occurs when blood clots form in the enlarged vein.
Venous stasis ulcers. An ulcer is formed when there is not proper drainage in the enlarged vein.
Although the exact causes for varicose and spider veins are unknown, pregnancy, heredity, prolonged standing, increased age, heavy lifting, and hormonal changes seem to be contributing factors.
Specific treatment for spider and varicose veins will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the condition
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
Sclerotherapy. This procedure involves the injection of a concentrated saline or specially-developed solution into the spider or varicose vein. The solution then hardens, causing the vein to close up or collapse. Healthier blood vessels located nearby absorb the blood flow of the collapsed vein.
Ambulatory phlebectomy. Ambulatory phlebectomy involves the removal of the vein by tiny punctures or incisions along the path of the enlarged vein. Through these tiny holes, the surgeon uses a surgical hook to remove the varicose vein.
Electrodesiccation. This procedure involves the sealing of the veins with the use of an electrical current.
Laser surgery and intense pulsed light therapy. Abnormal veins are destroyed by high-intensity laser beams or intense pulsating light.
Surgical ligation and stripping. This procedure involves the surgeon making an incision in the skin and removing or tying off the blood vessel.
Possible complications associated with the treatment of spider or varicose veins may include, but are not limited to, the following:
Pigmentation changes. Brownish splotches near the treated area may appear, and may take several months (or even up to a year) to fade.
Allergic reaction and scarring. Allergic reactions from the injected chemical solution, as well as permanent scarring, may result.
Telangiectatic matting. This reaction involves the appearance of fine, reddish blood vessels near the treated area. Treatment for this condition may require further injections.
Blood clots. Treatment could cause blood clots in the veins.
Women and men of any age may be candidates for sclerotherapy, but most are 30 to 60 years in age. Spider veins are more common in women. Men do have spider veins, but often do not consider them to be a cosmetic problem because the veins are usually concealed by hair on the leg.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should postpone sclerotherapy treatment. Further, it is not known how sclerosing solutions may affect breast milk.
Although each procedure varies, generally, vein removal surgeries follow this process:
Location options may include:
Surgeon's office-based surgical facility
Outpatient surgery center
Anesthetic options may include:
Local anesthesia with intravenous sedation, or epidural or spinal anesthesia
A compression bandage may be applied on the treated area following the procedure. Support hose may be recommended for a while.