Varicose veins with a diameter up of to 1 millimeter are called spider veins, or telangiectasias. These tiny, dilated veins develop close to the surface of the skin when there is pooling of blood in the vein caused by valve dysfunction and/or when the tissue walls are weakened. Spider veins on the face, chin, cheeks, and nose are common. However, they can also occur very frequently elsewhere, such as on the legs and ankles. Upon close examination, spider veins resemble small tree branches or spider webs. They appear as tiny red, blue or purple lines on the surface of the skin. The appearance of spider veins is often accompanied by redness or pigmentation in the area that is affected.
Spider veins are not typically linked to any dangerous health conditions, though many patients seek treatment for spider veins for cosmetic reasons. Spider veins on the face often develop as a result of sun damage, genetic predisposition and/or a skin condition called rosacea. They are commonly found in both men and women and can be treated using a number of very non-invasive and low-risk cosmetic procedures.
Spider veins of the legs develop as a result of genetics, injuries, prolonged standing and aging. Spider veins also commonly occur during pregnancy. The high hormone levels during pregnancy can make the musculature of the vein walls much weaker than normal. This condition is compounded because many pregnant women suffer from poor blood circulation as a result of decreased physical activity and an increased amount of blood in the venous system. In addition, there is increased pressure exerted on the venous system by the enlarged uterus. Both women and men can develop spider veins of the legs, although it is 2-3 times more common in women.
While the removal of spider veins has traditionally been performed using sclerotherapy, recent advances in laser technology make laser treatment for spider veins a reasonable alternative. Cautery techniques such as Veinwave and VeinGogh can be used to treat certain localized spider veins. If you think you may be affected by spider veins and want to educate yourself on the best treatment options, then contact a local vein center in your community. Discuss your options with a medical doctor listed on DoctorQA if you need treatment for spider veins.
Reviewed by Steven E. Zimmet, MD, RVT, FACPh
Editor of Phlebology
President, Zimmet Vein & Dermatology
Past-President, American College of Phlebology