What Are Spider Veins?

Spider veins are small red or blue blood vessels that are easily visible through the surface of the skin. They twist and turn, resembling spiders’ legs hence the name. While they aren’t normally painful and don’t present any serious medical problems, they are unsightly. There are treatments, however, that will quickly eliminate spider veins. These treatments are relatively inexpensive and recovery times are generally very short.


Medically speaking, spider veins are dilated capillaries that have become enlarged and overfilled with blood. Spider veins are very similar to varicose veins, but they are less than 1mm in width and, unlike varicose veins, they leave the surface of the skin smooth.

What Causes Spider Veins?

There are several known causes of spider veins. One is heredity. If your mother or father had spider veins, you are at an increased risk. You are also at a greater risk than normal if your family has a history of heart valve conditions. Other causes include smoking and obesity both restrict circulation which increases pressure on the blood vessels. Hormonal influences can cause spider veins, as well. These include hormonal birth control, pregnancy, and menopause.

Common causes:

  • Heredity
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause

Can I Prevent Spider Veins?

While there’s no way to guarantee that you won’t get spider veins, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce the risk of getting them. As with just about any physical ailment, quitting smoking will reduce the risk of spider veins. Losing weight (if you’re overweight) will also help. Exercise, especially exercise that targets the legs, improves leg strength and improves circulation. Using sunscreen every time you’re exposed to direct sunshine also helps, especially on the face. You can also wear compression leggings or stockings to promote improved circulation.

Prevention methods

  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Wear compression leggings

What Treatments Are Available?

The most common treatment of spider veins is sclerotherapy. This treatment consists of injecting a glycerin, salt, and fatty acid solution into the veins. This solution collapses the vein and allows the blood to flow safely back into the blood stream. Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy is also available, in which the medication is precisely guided by an ultrasound and monitored for successful treatment. Sclerotherapy just feels like any injection, and there is no recovery time, although strenuous activities will be limited for one to two weeks. Occasionally, patients experience some bruising, but it disappears in a couple weeks or less.

Laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments are also effective spider vein procedures. These procedures deliver a concentrated pulse of light to the affected area. Using specific wavelengths, the spider veins are sealed and blood is able to safely return to the blood stream. These procedures involve little to no pain. Once the treatment is completed, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relief. Normal activities may be resumed immediately, although you’ll want to avoid exposure to direct sunlight following the treatment.

Available Treatments

  • Sclerotherapy
  • Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy
  • Laser
  • Intense pulsed light

Spider veins, while not normally harmful, can be unsightly. For that reason, you may choose to have them treated. Fortunately, there are a few minimally invasive treatment options available. They are relatively inexpensive and involve little or no pain or recovery time.