Spider veins – known in the medical world as telangiectasias or sunburst varicosities – are small, thin veins that lie close to the surface of the skin. Although these super-fine veins are connected with the larger venous system, they are not an essential part of it.
A number of factors contribute to the development of spider veins, including heredity, pregnancy and other events that cause hormonal shifts, weight gain, occupations or activities that require prolonged sitting or standing, and the use of certain medications.
Spider veins usually take on one of three basic patterns. They may appear in a true spider shape with a group of veins radiating outward from a dark central point; they may be arborizing and will resemble tiny branch-like shapes; or they may be simple linear and appear as thin separate lines. Linear spider veins are commonly seen on the inner knee, whereas the arborizing pattern often appears on the outer thigh in a sunburst or cartwheel distribution.
Varicose veins differ from spider veins in a number of ways. Varicose veins are larger – usually more than a quarter-inch in diameter, darker in color and tend to bulge. Varicose veins are also more likely to cause pain and be related to more serious vein disorders. Often surgical treatment beyond laser treatment is necessary for this condition.
Women of any age may be good candidates for laser treatment for spider veins, but most fall in the 30-to-60 category. In some women, spider veins may become noticeable very early on – in the teen years. For others, the veins may not become obvious until they reach their 40s.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be advised to postpone lase treatment. In most cases, spider veins that surface during pregnancy will disappear on their own within three months after the baby is born. Nursing mothers are usually advised to wait until after they have stopped breastfeeding.
Spider veins in men aren’t nearly as common as they are in women. Men who do have spider veins often don’t consider them to be a cosmetic problem because the veins are usually concealed by hair growth on the leg. However, laser treatment for spider veins is just as effective for men who seek treatment.
Laser treatment of spider veins can enhance your appearance and your self confidence, but it’s unrealistic to believe that every affected vein will disappear completely as a result of treatment. After each treatment session, the veins will appear lighter. Two or more sessions are usually required to achieve optimal results.
You should also be aware that the procedure treats only those veins that are currently visible; it does nothing to permanently alter the venous system or prevent new veins from surfacing in the future.
Before you decide to have laser treatments for spider veins, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your doctor.
Serious medical complications from laser treatment of spider veins are extremely rare when the procedure is performed by a qualified practitioner. However, they may occur. Risks include the formation of blood clots in the veins, severe inflammation, adverse allergic reactions and skin injury that could leave a small but permanent scar.
A common cosmetic complication is pigmentation irregularity – brownish splotches on the affected skin that may take months to fade, sometimes up to a year.
You can reduce the risks associated with treatment by choosing a doctor who has adequate training in laser treatments. A qualified doctor can help you determine the most appropriate treatment for your needs.