Are spider veins cause for concern?


Spider veins – thin visible veins that can look like a spider web – are a common venous condition that can affect both women and men.

Many people find spider veins to be an unsightly nuisance, but when does the condition require medical attention?

Medically known as telangiectasia, spider veins are small, dilated blood vessels that appear on the face, including around the eyes and nose, and on the legs and around the ankles. These veins can be red, purple or blue in color. They might be tiny in appearance or appear as a blotch.

Like varicose veins, spider veins are caused by enlarged blood vessels. But, spider veins and varicose veins are different conditions.

One big difference between these two conditions is that spider veins are very close to the skin’s surface, while varicose veins are larger and set much deeper inside your body.

Spider veins form when the capillaries in the skin become dilated. Poor circulation, aging and skin damage can contribute to blood pooling in the capillaries, and this pooling results in the loosening and expansion of the capillaries.

Sun exposure, genetics and hormones (estrogen and progesterone) play a role in the development of spider veins. Because of this, it is no surprise that women experience spider veins more frequently than men. Spider veins are more common in pregnant women and those women who take oral contraceptives or hormone-replacement therapy, too.

Although spider veins are unattractive, the presence of spider veins does not mean that you have venous insufficiency. However, symptoms of venous insufficiency along with spider veins can be a red flag. These symptoms include heaviness in the legs, aches or pain in the legs, leg cramps, swelling in the legs, and restless legs. If you have these symptoms and visible spider veins, the likelihood of venous insufficiency is higher.

A vein specialist should be consulted for a full evaluation to determine if your spider veins are related to a venous insufficiency, including hidden varicose veins. If you have spider veins on your face that are painful, a medical professional should be consulted.

Typically, a medical evaluation for spider veins without venous insufficiency symptoms is recommended if there is a higher than average risk for problems. Seek a qualified medical opinion if you are overweight or obese, have had a leg injury that left you immobile for a long recovery and/or required surgery, you wear high-heels and/or tight-fitting pants that affect your circulation, take birth control, are pregnant, have a family history of varicose veins and/or blood clots, live a sedentary lifestyle or stand/sit for long periods of time for work.

Sclerotherapy and laser treatments are painless and safe procedures used to remove unwanted spider veins on the legs and the face. With sclerotherapy, a special compounded medicine is injected into the veins, causing them to clump together or clot and become less noticeable.

San Diego Vein Institute specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of varicose veins, spider veins and venous disease. San Diego Vein Institute is located at 336 Encinitas Boulevard, Suite 130, Encinitas, CA 92024. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (760) 944-9263 or visit