Spider veins—the bane of elderly women, or so the myth goes. But the truth is that anyone can get spider veins, including younger women and even men. So what are they, exactly?
Spider veins aren’t quite the same thing as varicose veins, which are the more dilated and ropelike veins under the skin and which can be quite painful (and possibly harmful to the health if left untreated). Instead, spider veins, known as telangiectasias, are enlarged venules, which are the very small veins and blood vessels. Fortunately, in most cases, spider veins are painless.
There are many reasons people get spider veins—they are caused by increased pressure on the veins. As we age, our venous walls weaken and then blood can pool (the typical cause of varicose veins, for example). But what about in younger people?
Most commonly, spider veins are associated with pregnancy, as the body undergoes a tremendous amount of pressure. But who else is at risk?
Similarly, people who are obese are more prone to them as their blood vessels are also under greater pressure, as the body has to work hard to circulate the blood up from the feet and to the heart.
But the truth is that perfectly healthy and even fit people can get these pesky veins. Young athletes are often prone to them, especially behind the knees, as their strenuous workouts will elevate the blood pressure, and their legs often take a pounding. Spider veins appear when the body’s vascular system is under stress. The extra pressure in the veins makes them bulge and expand. In fact, even though they may be unsightly, they are quite normal.
For some people, spider veins are genetic, which means nothing you can do can truly prevent them from occurring, and they can show up at any time. It’s part of your makeup. And if your parent had spider veins as a teenager, there is a good chance you will, too.
The appearance of spider veins is not something that should worry you, and in general, there are no health risks associated. However, there are some very rare cases of genetic conditions that can cause spider veins to appear in multiple patches on the arms and torso, so if you spot these, have them checked out just to be safe. It’s always good to have any type of venous condition on your medical record, and you’ll always want to know of any genetic predisposition that can lead to something more harmful than a cluster of dark veins.
But you shouldn’t live in fear of spider veins; in most of the cases, they are completely benign. You should be aware, though, that they won’t go away on their own. To actually remove spider veins, you will need to undergo the very simple laser therapy.
When treating spider veins with laser therapy, the laser damages the blood vessels, making them clot and dry up, at which point, they will get reabsorbed by your tissue. This non-invasive treatment can be done in the office on a very short lunch break, for instance, or after track practice or yoga class. This treatment is different from sclerotherapy, generally used for the treatment of varicose veins, which entails an injection of medicine directly into the blood vessel. The difference with laser therapy is that after treatment, you should avoid sun exposure for up to ten days to prevent a browning or discoloration of the skin. As with any laser treatment to the skin, there may be a small amount of spotting that appears in the area of treatment, but this will go away in a short amount of time and is nothing you should worry about.
Be aware, though, that once you’ve gotten spider veins, they are likely to return, especially if you continue the same activities that caused them in the first place. If your veins are prone to swelling and bulging when under pressure, the rest of your veins will continue to do so; treatment is not a cure or prevention.
For some people, spider veins can cause insecurity—they aren’t called “butterfly veins,” after all—and there is nothing wrong with wanting them removed. The key with laser therapy—as with every treatment—is to choose a doctor or specialist who is board-certified and experienced in the procedure.
If you’re tired of your spider veins and are ready for laser treatment, or if you want to know more about the procedure or sclerotherapy, contact us at 760-944-9263 or visit us at www.sdveininstitute.com.