Treatments for Spider Veins
by Brad McHargue
Spider veins are a smaller variation of varicose veins, characterized by their spider-like appearance and red, purple or blue color. Typically caused by weakened valves in the veins that prevent blood from flowing backward, they are usually nothing more than a cosmetic issue. However, varicose veins and spider veins could signify a more serious underlying condition, especially when accompanied with pain or discomfort. Treatment involves preventative measures, lifestyle changes and a number of medical procedures and therapy.
The first line of treatment for spider veins and other varicose veins is wearing compression stockings. Designed to improve circulation in the legs, they compress the legs and the veins, which in turn helps the blood circulate easier and more efficiently.
Coming in a variety of colors and styles, compression stockings should be chosen carefully. It is wise to have a pharmacist measure your leg to determine the proper size to use. Arthritis and other conditions may make the hands weak, resulting in difficulty putting the stockings on. If this is the case, devices exist to assist with getting the stockings on.
A number of at-home and lifestyle treatments exist to not only help slow down the progression of spider veins and other varicose veins, but also help ease any pain or discomfort.
Anything that improves circulation and decreases the amount of pressure on the legs, such as exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, can help prevent varicose veins and ease associated pain. Water retention can increase the amount of swelling. A low-salt, high-fiber diet is recommended.
Avoiding undue pressure on the legs and feet from activities such as excessive standing or sitting can help. Crossing your legs crossed can inhibit circulation and increase the risk of spider veins occurring. It is wise to elevate the legs periodically throughout the day, as this can improve circulation and increase blood flow to the heart. Additionally, avoiding any clothing that can decrease blood flow, such as tight fitting shoes or pants, is recommended.
A variety of surgical options may be recommended by your doctor. These include laser surgery, vein stripping, ambulatory phlebectomy and endoscopic vein surgery.
Laser surgery is a non-invasive form of surgery used to treat varicose veins and spider veins. Doctors aim high energy light beams directly at the vein, causing it to fade in color or disappear altogether. This form of surgery is effective on veins smaller than 3mm, and possible side effects include swelling and discolored skin. This can be done in a doctor's office and there is no recovery time.
Vein stripping is another method of treating varicose and spider veins and involves surgically removing the vein through a series of small incisions. Usually done as an outpatient procedure in the doctor's office, vein stripping has no effect on circulation, as the larger amounts of blood are circulated through veins found much deeper in the leg. Possible side effects include scarring, infection, swelling, and in rare cases nerve tissue damage and a deep vein blood clot.
An ambulatory phlebectomy involves the removal of smaller varicose and spider veins through tiny punctures in the skin. Local anesthesia is used to numb the pain, but only in the areas being punctured. It is typically an outpatient procedure, and the only side effects are minimal scarring, possible bruising, and temporary numbness.
Endoscopic vein surgery is only done in severe cases of varicose or spider veins that result in leg ulcers. It involves the use of a tiny camera inserted into the leg to close the vein and remove it through a series of small incisions. Like the other forms of surgery, this too is an outpatient procedure, though recovery typically takes a few weeks.
Sclerotherapy is considered the most common method of treatment for varicose veins. It involves the injection of a solution that causes the walls of the vein to swell up and stick together, resulting in a permanent seal. This arrests the flow of blood, turning the veins into scar tissue and inevitably causing them to fade.
Sclerotherapy is up to 90 percent effective if done by an accomplished doctor. Anesthesia is not used, and the treatment can be done in the doctor's office. Side effects can include bruising, skin sores and pain around the area of the injection and inflammation.