Spider veins form close to the surface of the skin and are small clumps of blood vessels. They are also known as telangiectasias or broken capillaries and often resemble a spider, hence the name. Many people with spider veins find them cosmetically unappealing – they are tangled bunches of red, blue, or purple veins that appear mostly on the legs but can also appear on the face and other areas.
A number of factor cause spider veins. Women and older people are more likely to develop them than men, and pregnancy can bring them on as well. Trauma, such as being hit with a rock, can also lead to spider veins. Once they occur, prolonged sitting or standing can exacerbate spider veins, excess weight, high heels, poor diet, tight clothing, and leg crossing.
Although they can be uncomfortable, spider veins do not pose a health threat. Therefore, insurance companies will not pick up the tab for spider vein treatment. If a person decides to go forward with it anyway, he or she faces a financial obligation as well as a commitment to several treatment sessions.
All vein treatments destroy or remove the defective veins. Sclerotherapy is the treatment of choice for spider veins. During sclerosing, the specialist injects the vein with a fine needle containing a solution that causes it to close up or collapse. The patient feels slightly uncomfortable, but the pain wears off quickly. In most cases, the patient can resume normal activities. Sometimes a doctor will recommend wearing compression stockings for a few days.
Most patients will have more than one session of treatments. These sessions are usually separated by a month and vary from person to person, depending on the amount of spider veins to be removed. Sessions can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes and treat from 10 to 40 veins.
The cost of the procedure may be prohibitive for some people. Depending upon the severity of the spider veins and the patient’s geographic location, the patient can expect to pay $250 to $400 per session.
Most patients look worse before they look better. The legs may appear swelled, bruised, and red after the procedure, and they may itch. Wearing pants post-procedure is a good idea because the legs should be protected from the sun. Sun exposure may contribute to spider veins by wearing down the elastic fibers around blood vessels, thus causing them to balloon.
Spider veins may recur, but they get fainter with each treatment and eventually disappear entirely. Some people who have undergone the procedure feel a difference in their legs, even if they didn’t notice the dull pain they caused before they were removed. If a patient has reasonable expectations about the number of procedures it may take to eradicate spider veins, the procedure can be successful.