What Are Spider Veins?
While many people will present with isolated spider veins at the surface of their skin, it is important to keep in mind the following:
Spider veins may be a sign of a deeper vascular condition. Know your vein health.
What Are the Symptoms of Spider Veins?
For many people, spider veins are more of a visible, unsightly nuisance with little to no physical symptoms.
Typically, spider veins are not a cause for alarm if you are not experiencing additional health symptoms, as they are more of a cosmetic concern. Spider veins may not bulge like varicose veins, yet they are still unpleasant and may cause embarrassment.
Some people, however, may experience itching, burning, or aching in the area where blood vessels are clustered. If spider veins are accompanied by bothersome or uncomfortable symptoms, it is essential that you be evaluated for potential underlying venous disease.
Additional symptoms that may accompany spider veins:
- Skin changes or discoloration
- Leg or ankle swelling
- Varicose veins
- Heavy or restless legs
What Causes Spider Veins?
The cause of spider veins is not entirely understood. Often, people are simply predisposed to developing certain vascular conditions, including spider veins.
For example, women tend to suffer from spider and varicose veins more frequently than men.
Additional factors that increase the chances of developing them:
- Injury or trauma to the skin
- Changes in hormone levels
- Exposure to the sun
- Lack of exercise
- Prolonged sitting or standing
- Underlying illness or medical conditions, such as liver disease
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
Reticular or “Feeder” Veins
At times, malfunctioning valves in reticular or "feeder" veins may be the underlying cause of spider veins.
Reticular veins are smaller than varicose veins and do not bulge above the skin's surface. Like varicose veins, the most common areas include the inside and back of the thigh, ankle, and lower leg. Unhealthy reticular veins will sometimes feed into spider veins, providing an excess source of blood for the spider veins.
In this case, faulty valves allow blood to flow backward, pooling in non-functioning veins just under the surface of the skin. Treatment will seal off the diseased reticular veins, restoring healthy blood circulation. As a result, spider veins eventually absorb back into the body.
What are the Risk Factors Associated with Spider Veins?
Although the exact causes of spider veins are not entirely understood, several risk factors may increase your chances of developing them.
- Age: As bodies age, the valves in our blood vessels may weaken, allowing leakage or pooling in the veins.
- Hormonal Changes: Puberty, pregnancy, menopause, hormone replacement therapy, and hormonal contraceptives, may all lead to spider veins.
- Family History: Vein disease and weak vein valves may run in families.
- Obesity: Carrying excess weight puts pressure on our blood valves, contributing to weakened valves and veins.
- Sitting or standing for prolonged periods: Bed rest or being immobile can slow down healthy blood circulation. On the other hand, standing for extended periods increases the pressure on our veins.
How Are Spider Veins Diagnosed?
Most often, a doctor will be able to diagnose spider veins by simply examining your skin. While spider veins can appear anywhere on the body, they are most common on the legs, face, and neck.
In addition to a physical examination, your doctor will speak to you about your potential risk factors, including any medications or hormone supplements you may be taking. Your doctor may also ask about alcohol consumption, as alcohol can cause liver disease. In fact, spider veins may be a sign of liver disease. A simple blood test called a liver panel can be performed to rule out this potential condition.
If your medical history and physical examination indicate the possibility of vein disease, your doctor will likely order a vein ultrasound.
Vascular leg ultrasound, or Duplex Ultrasound, is a non-invasive, quick, painless, and accurate diagnostic tool.
This type of ultrasound will test the speed of blood flow in your arteries and veins, also allowing for precise detection of any abnormalities or underlying vein conditions.
A Vascular Ultrasound takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. A technician will apply a warm gel on your skin and press a small, hand-held device called a transducer or microphone against the skin. The transducer uses sound waves to produce a sharp, two-dimensional picture of blood flow.
How Are Spider Veins Treated?
Treatment for spider veins is easy, minimally invasive, and effective. For spider veins and smaller varicose veins, Sclerotherapy and Laser treatments are most popular. Also, several lifestyle changes and modifications may ease your symptoms.
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a small amount of irritant (sclerosant) or foam directly into the spider vein. The irritant will eventually weaken the vein and cause it to shrink.
Your body will reabsorb the collapsed vein, allowing blood to flow naturally to nearby healthy veins, restoring healthy circulation.
The benefits of sclerotherapy:
- Treatments typically take less than 30 minutes.
- Sclerotherapy is safe and effective.
- Most patients do not experience treatment to be painful.
- Recovery time is fast, and most are back to their normal activities the same day treatment is received.
Without needles or incisions, your doctor will aim a concentrated burst of light onto the vein. Patients may find that when the laser hits their skin, they experience a slight pinch. A doctor will quickly cool the skin off, minimizing most discomfort.
Gradually, the vein will begin to fade and collapse. Typically, anywhere from 3 to 5 treatments are needed to achieve desired results fully.
Several lifestyle changes may improve your symptoms and prevent spider veins from worsening.
- Maintaining a healthy weight and diet
- Elevating the legs
- Avoid standing or sitting for prolonged periods
- Use of compression stockings
Is Spider Vein Treatment Covered by Insurance?
Spider veins are typically considered to be a cosmetic issue and not a diagnosed medical condition. If spider veins are present without a diagnosed underlying venous disease, insurance will not cover cosmetic procedures.
However, should your symptoms and medical history raise concern that an underlying venous condition is a potential cause, your doctor will likely perform an ultrasound to observe blood flow and the health of deeper veins. If the ultrasound indicates the presence of any abnormalities, venous insufficiency may be diagnosed.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency is a recognized, progressive medical condition, requiring treatment to prevent more severe health complications. Insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicare Plus, cover the costs associated with treating CVI.
Consult with your insurance carrier before obtaining treatment. Also, discuss your diagnosis and treatment options with your doctor. Their office may be able to help you with the insurance process
Contact iThriveVeins Today
iThriveVeins is dedicated to helping you feel and look your best. A number of safe and effective spider vein treatment options are available.
Our professional staff and board-certified cardiologist aim to provide the highest level of care and support. Call iThriveVeins for a free consultation.