Spider Veins

THE CONDITION

Spider veins are tiny superficial blood vessels often appearing on the skin in ‘sunburst’ patterns.

It is estimated that at least 50% of women suffer from spider veins and, while common in men, they're often not as noticeable due to leg hair. Women often avoid wearing clothes that show their legs due to the embarrassment of having spider veins.

Most patients with spider veins remain asymptomatic. However others may complain of burning, itching, throbbing, heaviness or pain. Occasionally they may spontaneously bleed. The exact cause of spider veins is unknown. However heredity seems to play a critical role.

Spider veins are more common in woman secondary to pregnancy, hormones, birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Occupations requiring prolonged sitting, standing or working on hard concrete floors may increase the risk of developing spider veins. A history of blood clots or venous valvular insufficiency may increase the risk too.

Treatment options for spider veins should be individualized. Many people are simply not bothered by them and do not seek medical treatment. Additionally, the treatment of spider veins is often not covered by insurance, especially if the treatment is for cosmetic reasons. However if there is an underlying condition of venous valvular insufficiency or larger varicose veins, then these underlying conditions are often covered by insurance.

There are several conservative treatments for spider veins, which have marginal positive effects. These include support stockings, elevation of the legs and lifestyle changes such as weight loss, avoidance of sun and walking.

THE TREATMENT

The mainstay form of treatment is sclerotherapy (injections). Sclerotherapy treatments involve the injection of a sclerosing agent into the spider vein.

At Christchurch Vein Clinic we use Aethoxysclerol and Sclerovein. These irritate the lining of the vessel, which causes it to close, fibrose and become reabsorbed by the body. The vessel fades and becomes barely noticeable.

Most patients will require multiple injections in one sitting with a very small needle. The procedure is relatively simple and is performed in the specialist’s rooms. It may take more than one sclerotherapy session to obliterate all of the spider veins but it is advisable to wait several weeks between treatments for best results. Most patients can achieve 80%-90% improvement.

There are several safety and risk factors to be aware of prior to sclerotherapy. Temporary or limited complications include pain and reddened areas at the site of injection and temporary bruising. More severe complications include possible allergic reactions and skin ulcerations at treatment sites. Small areas of hyper pigmentation or brown staining at the site of injection may occur. These generally fade with time. In very few patients - matting or new spider veins may arise at the injection site.

Spider veins have a tendency to recur, and as a result it may be wise to have a yearly appointment with our specialists to keep on top of them.