Having spider or varicose veins can affect more than your appearance. These veins can cause serious discomfort. Some varicose veins put you at risk for a complication like a blood clot or open sores on your legs.
Minimally invasive treatment can get rid of or fade leg veins. Treatment can also diminish symptoms like pain and fatigue and prevent complications.
Why we get visible leg veins
Varicose and spider veins are damaged veins. We develop them when tiny, one-way valves inside the veins weaken. In healthy veins, these valves push blood in one direction — back to our heart. When these valves weaken, some blood flows backward and accumulates in the vein. Extra blood in the vein puts pressure on the walls of the vein.
With continual pressure, the vein walls weaken and bulge. In time, we see a varicose or spider vein.
Some people have a higher risk of developing these veins. If blood relatives have them, you have a higher risk. Many people get them because they sit or stand for long periods most days of the week. These veins also become more common with age and during pregnancy.
Spider veins can also be caused by sunlight, hormonal changes, or an injury.
How dermatologists treat leg veins
Treatment options range from self-care to minor surgery. A dermatologist may use one or more of these treatments:
Self-care: Your dermatologist can give you tips to improve your circulation. These tips include:
- Elevate your legs
- Sit for long periods? Get up and walk around every 30 minutes
- Stand for long periods? Take a break every 30 minutes
- Avoid soaking in hot baths for long periods of time
Self-care tips can help prevent new varicose and spider veins but cannot get rid of existing ones.
Compression stockings: These stockings apply steady pressure to help move the blood back to your heart. The steady pressure also lessens swelling in your lower legs and reduces the risk of getting a blood clot. You’ll still have visible leg veins, though. If you need compression stockings, a dermatologist can examine you so that you get the proper size and right amount of pressure.
Sclerotherapy: This is the most common treatment for leg veins. Over the years, dermatologists have improved sclerotherapy to make it safer and give patients better results. Today, dermatologists use it to treat spider and small varicose veins.
If you have sclerotherapy, this is what happens during treatment:
- Your dermatologist injects a chemical into the spider or varicose vein, which irritates the wall of the vein. Different areas of the vein are injected.
- After the injections, your dermatologist may massage the area.
- A compression stocking is then placed on each leg.
- You will be observed for a time and then be able to go home.
- To help prevent possible side effects, you will need to take daily walks and wear the compression stockings as directed. Most patients wear the compression stockings for 2 to 3 weeks.
- You can return to work and most activities the next day.
Sclerotherapy causes the walls of the vein to stick together, so the blood cannot flow through it anymore. This improves circulation in the treated leg and reduces swelling.
Spider veins usually disappear in 3 to 6 weeks. Varicose veins take 3 to 4 months.
To get the best results, you may need 2 or 3 treatments. A dermatologist can perform these treatments during an office visit. No anesthesia is needed.
Laser treatments: Dermatologists use lasers to treat spider veins and small varicose veins. During laser treatment, your dermatologist directs the laser light at the vein.
Small spider veins may disappear immediately after treatment. Larger spider veins and varicose veins will darken, and you’ll likely see them for 1 to 3 months before they disappear. To get complete clearing, you may need 3 or more treatments.
Most patients can return to work and many of their normal activities the next day.
After each treatment, some patients need to wear compression stockings for a short time.
Every patient will need to protect the treated area from the sun for 3 to 4 weeks. This helps prevent dark spots from developing. Protecting your skin from the sun year round helps to prevent new spider veins and skin cancer.
Care plans range from conservative, non-surgical treatments and minimally-invasive, percutaneous (through the skin) needle-based interventions, to open surgical treatments -- depending on your individual needs, the anatomy and disease process, and informed discussions about the range of options.
Our surgeons are trained to oversee all aspects of vascular care, from initial evaluation to the performance of invasive diagnostic tests like angiograms, and complex surgical reconstructions, when needed.
In addition to treating disorders involving blockages, aneurysms, and clotting problems, our vascular surgeons are involved in the generalized care of all vascular conditions and surgical problems including:
- Dialysis access creation
- Reconstruction of arteries and veins in conjunction with solid tumor resections
- Management of injured blood vessels. Treatment Options
- Lifestyle changes
- Advanced minimally-invasive endovascular interventions
- Complex open surgery