Spider veins are called that because they often look like a red or blue spider web creeping across your skin. They’re similar to varicose veins, but differ mainly in size. Spider veins tend to occur closer to the surface of your skin as well, whereas varicose veins are deeper and look like twisted cords or bulging ropes that swell when engorged.
Spider veins usually appear on your face or legs, but can develop anywhere on your body. They may appear in very small batches or take up large areas of skin. Your New York dermatologist can tell you if you have varicose or spider veins and how best to treat them.
All symptoms and skin findings should always evaluated with a thorough consultation and physical examination for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan in order to exclude any underlying serious condition.
Causes of the Unsightly Webs
Spider veins, called telangiectasia in the jargon of your medical skin doctor, are common, especially as you age. Heredity plays a big role in whether or not you’ll be among the more than 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men who have some level of spider veins — usually on the legs.
If you stand for long periods of time, you’re at a greater risk of developing spider veins, which form as a result of pressure placed on the blood vessels. They also are caused by weakened veins that end up with a backup of blood in them, leading to their appearance under your skin. Spider veins also can be the result of:
- Hormonal changes
- Exposure to ultraviolet sunrays
You’re at an increased risk of developing both varicose and spider veins if you:
- Are female
- Are older than 50, as your veins just get weaker with age
- Have a family history of vein problems
- Are obese or overweight, since the added weight puts additional pressure on your veins
- Are sedentary — sitting for long periods of time forces your veins to work harder to keep the blood pumping down your legs and gets even worse if you sit with your legs crossed or bent
- Are pregnant, since your uterus places extra pressure on your veins and your body produces extra blood during this time. Varicose and spider veins worsen with each pregnancy too.
- Are fair-skinned and spend time in the sun, unprotected since spider veins tend to develop on your face and nose
- Are going through hormonal changes such as puberty, menopause or pregnancy. Also, taking certain hormone-based medications like birth control that contain progesterone and/or estrogen can cause spider veins to develop.
Spider veins usually are easily recognized by your Manhattan dermatologist with just a visual inspection. They don’t always carry the same symptoms as the larger, more irritating varicose veins. And while they don’t have any serious medical side effects, spider veins can be uncomfortable and even painful.
Most people visit their NYC dermatologist to treat the unsightly appearance of spider veins than to relieve any definitive pain. Spider veins can, however, be uncomfortable with possible feelings of:
- Pressure on your legs where they’ve formed
- Slight throbbing
- Discomfort after sitting for long periods of time
Preventive Steps to Start
Whether you’ve just the faint beginnings of spider veins or know that you have a family history of the weakened blood vessels, talk to your New York dermatologist about the best way to prevent them from happening — or at least to reduce the amount you get and the side effects that come with spider vein development.
Preventive steps include:
- Wear compression stockings, especially when you know in advance that you’ll be on your feet for an extended period of time. Nurses, teachers, waitresses and retail salespeople all can benefit from wearing at least light compression stockings that are measured in gradients of mercury for the amount of pressure put on your legs. 15 to 20 milliliters is an effective pressure to stave off spider veins.
- Increase circulation in your legs with regular exercise. Your legs are most susceptible to spider veins because of their distance from your heart. The blood vessels in your legs have to work harder than others in your body to breach that distance coming and going.
- Elevate your legs above your heart whenever you get the chance. After work, lie down and prop them on a pile of pillows for at least on hour.
- Reduce the pressure on your legs by avoiding sitting with your legs crossed.
- Take regular walks every 30 minutes when you sit all day.
- Lose weight if you carry any extra pounds.
- Apply sunscreen on your face, especially if you’re blond and/or light-skinned.
Talk to your New York dermatologist about treatment for any varicose veins that you might have. The condition weakens your blood vessels and one side effect is additional spider veins that you may not have gotten if you’d removed or treated obvious, bulging varicose veins. Untreated varicose veins can lead to a whole other level of side effects in addition to spider veins, including:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Skin ulcers and sores
- Blood clots
Chase Away the Spiders
Once you’ve decided to take steps to rid your skin of the unsightly spider veins, your NYC dermatologist has a number of options from which you can choose. One of the most successful treatments is sclerotherapy. The procedure involves injecting your veins with a solution that causes the tiny veins to collapse and die. The blood flow is stopped and what was once a red or blue line, fades away and disappears within a couple weeks. Sclerotherapy is about 90 percent effective for ridding your body of spider veins.
Another popular treatment involves the use of lasers. Your skin doctor may decide to use laser treatment on those spider veins that are particularly tiny and narrow because they are more difficult to inject. The pulses of heat can be directed so a specific pinpoint under your skin to eradicate the spider veins.
While the spider veins that have been treated won’t return to cause you more concern, it’s likely that you’ll develop more spider veins, especially if you don’t take the precautions listed above. Your dermatologist in New York City cannot cure weakened veins, but regular visual examinations and ultrasound tests can help monitor your venous activity. And following the advice of your dermatologist for lifestyle changes that will improve your skin condition are vital to reducing your risk of developing more spider veins.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult dermatologist NYC about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Spider Veins? Would like to schedule an appointment with an internationally recognized, best rated NY dermatologist, Dr. Susan Bard of Manhattan Dermatology Specialists, please contact our Midtown NYC office for consultation with cosmetic and laser dermatologist.