You’d love to put on a pair of shorts or wear a swimsuit at the beach or pool this summer. There’s just one thing that’s stopping you. The blue and red veins that spread across your thighs and calves, making you feel pretty self-conscious about the way your legs look.
Spider veins are fairly common and affect about half of the population. Although almost everybody has them, you aren’t stuck with them. Knowing why people get spider veins and what your treatment options are can help you decide what to do to cope with them
Spider Veins ≠ Varicose Veins
When it comes to vein issues, spider veins are often grouped in the same category as varicose veins. While there might be similarities between the two issues, it’s important to understand that spider and varicose veins aren’t the same thing. Varicose veins often look like cords or ropes sticking out from the surface of the skin. They might be twisty and knotted and are often purple or blue in color. In some cases, varicose veins can cause complications ranging from pain and throbbing to ulcers and bleeding.
Spider veins, on the other hand, are usually flat and web-like. Some people think they look like spider webs, others would describe them as resembling delicate tree branches. Although they commonly develop on the legs, like varicose veins, they can also occur on the face.
Another major difference between spider and varicose veins is how deep they are in the legs. Spider veins are usually just below the surface of the skin, while varicose veins can be deeper.
The causes of varicose veins and spider veins also usually differ somewhat, but are related. People typically develop varicose veins when the valves in the veins in their legs don’t work properly. The weak valves can let blood seep back down instead of pumping all the way up to the heart, causing the veins to swell. People tend to develop spider veins when blood backs up in the smaller vessels or when there is increased pressure on the legs.
What Can Lead to Spider Veins
Several factors can make a person more at risk for developing spider veins than another. Some of the reasons why a person might get spider veins can be out of her control, while some of the reasons are related to lifestyle choices or habits.
The older you are, the greater the chance of developing spider veins, mostly because the veins don’t work as well as they once did as you get older. It’s possible for your veins to become weaker and for blood to pool as you age.
Spider veins tend to be passed down from parents to their children. If your mom or dad had them, you’re more likely to have them. If both of your parents have or had them, you’re almost guaranteed to get them, too.
Since the veins tend to develop due to increased pressure in the legs, activities that put a fair amount of pressure on the legs can be a factor in developing them. Standing, particularly standing for long stretches of time, can make spider veins worse. People with jobs that require lots of time standing, such as teachers, nurses, servers and bartenders, might be more likely to develop spider veins.
Just like standing, sitting for hours on end, especially if you cross your legs, can increase your chance of developing the veins. When you don’t move your legs, the veins need to work harder to pump blood to the heart, which puts more pressure on them.
Pregnant women are more likely to develop vein problems, because the increase in hormone levels can be a trigger. Other life events that involve fluctuating hormone levels, such as puberty or menopause, can also lead to vein problems.
Here’s one more reason to always wear sunscreen: Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can contribute to spider veins. Sun exposure makes the veins more likely to be visible on the face.
Treating Spider Veins
Typically, there are two types of spider vein treatment available. Spider vein treatments are generally more superficial and less invasive than treatments for varicose veins, which might require surgery, depending on their size.
One of the more common treatments for spider veins is sclerotherapy. During the treatment, a surgeon injects a chemical solution into the veins. The solution destroys the veins, causing them to collapse and fade away. The remaining veins in the treated area take up the slack and continue to pump blood through the body.
Sclerotherapy is usually a quick treatment, and takes less than an hour. Although it might take a few weeks for the treated veins to disappear, many people are able to resume their daily activities right away.
While sclerotherapy uses chemicals to destroy the appropriate veins, laser treatments rely on light energy to remove veins. During a laser treatment for spider veins, the doctor passes a small device over the area where the veins are. The device lets out a pulse of laser energy, warming the veins enough to destroy them. Although the laser might be hot, the device also cools the skin as it works, helping a patient stay comfortable.
Laser treatment takes about a half an hour and has almost no downtime, although some people find wearing support hose after treatment is helpful. The number of treatments a person needs depends on how many spider veins he or she has and the size of the area that needs treatment.
Under the supervision of board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Vitenas, the team at Mirror, Mirror Beauty Boutique in Houston, Texas, offers a variety of treatments to help minimize the appearance of spider veins. If you’re ready to let your legs see the light of day this summer, call 281-810-9083 to schedule an appointment today.